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LI E> RARY 

OF THE 

U N 1VLR.SITY 

or ILLINOIS 

823 

C427b 
V.2 



5 



A BRILLIANT WOMAN 



A 



BRILLIANT WOMAN 



BY 

THE HONORABLE Mrs. HENRY CHETWYND. 

AUTHOR OF 

"THE MARCH VIOLET," "SARA," "LOVE IN A GERMAN VILLAGS , " 
"A DUTCH COUSLN," ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES— II. 



fonbon 1892 

HUTCHINSON AND CO. 

25 PATERNOSTER SQUARE 



PRINTKD AT INIMKGI'KN (HOLLAND) 

BY H. C, A. THIEME OF NIMEGUKN (HOLLAND^ 

AND 

TALBOT HOUSH, ARLNDEL STREET, 

LONDON, W.C. 



8-3.3 



I/, 



CONTENTS 

VOL. IT 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. "CAN YOU GIVE ME NO REASON?" I 

II. THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS 1 4 

III. OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY GENUS 26 

IV. MISTAKES 45 

V. THE WYN COTES OF WYNCOTE HUNDRED 58 

VI. WHAT WAS THE SECRET? 11 

VII. AN ADVENTURE AND A SAFETY SKIRT 91 

VIII. "HOW CAN WE SET THINGS RIGHT?" IO7 

IX. THE DUCHESS PAYS A VISIT I20 

X. AN ARRIVAL AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 1 36 

XI. A COMING STORM 154 

XII. PERPLEXITIES 1 69 

XIII. THE BLACKNESS OF DESPAIR 1 83 

XIV. ONE LETTER WHICH DID NOT REACH ITS DESTINATION 1 95 
XV. SUSPENSE AND NO ANSWER ! 206 

XVI. CHANGE OF PLACE . 2 21 

XVII. "I CANNOT SEE HIM ! " 235 

XVIIL A FIXED IDEA 253 



A BRILLIANT WOMAN. 



CHAPTER I. 

"C\N YOU GTVE ME NO REASON?" 

Before Mrs. Burlington had left her room Mr. Hor- 
ace Wyncote called to inquire for her. So, it may be 
added, did other people. Mr. Burlington surveyed the 
Wyncote card with a feeling of dismay; but no 
feeling of dismay or otherwise altered the fact. The 
acquaintance was made, and could not be unmade. 
The best of us are self-tormentors, and make a good 
deal of unnecessary misery for ourselves. Poor Cyril 
Burlington made himself very unhappy about this 
visit. He w^as sufficiently acquainted with his wife's 

character now to know that a direct command would 
VOL. II. I 



2 A Brilliant Woman. 

not answer; and he doubted his influence over her 
if he exerted it. She would obey his command and 
resent it, and if he tried another way — she would 
laugh him to scorn. He had grown to dread her 
way of laughing at what was generally very real 
earnest to him. 

Some women, he had heard, shed tears on 
slight provocation. That must be trying to see; 
but could it be worse than the sort of prolonged 
hysterical laughter which so plainly said that there 
existed no sympathy between him and his life's 
companion ? 

Aunt Anne was of no assistance to him just now. 
because she took so different a view of the position 
of things. Never was a man — anxious to act for the 
best, and thinking of his wife's welfare (not of his 
own) — more completely at a loss! He ventured to 
say a few words to his wife the first day she was 
once more in her sitting-room, and, though lying 
on the sofa, evidently recovering her usual health 



" Can you give me no Reason ?^ 3 

and spirits; and when he had said them he was not 
sure what he had gained by them. 

" The man who picked you up the other day, 
Mr. Horace Wyncote, called to ask how you were 
to-day." 

" That was kind. Cyril, I wish you would tell 
me what is wrong? I am sure Mr. Wyncote has 
done nothing to hurt any one; I never saw any 
one I thought more winning." 

" Things are not always easy to explain. I wish 
you would do one thing to please me. I wish you 
w^ould not carry this acquaintance further. Let it 
drop." 

«Why?" 

"Because it is unfortunate altogether." 

* So I understand you think; but cannot you give 
me one single reason ? You expect me to make my 
acquaintances, to form my friendships, altogether on 
your lines ; to see with your eyes, to be guided by 
your wishes, to ace by your advice blindly, in a 



4 A Brilliant Woman. 

way no woman can do. You never give a reason. 
You expect a slavish submission. Yes, Cyril ! you 
put me — or, rather,you try to put me —in the position 
of a slave, not in that of a wife! " 

" If the reasons are those I cannot give, " he said 
in a low voice, moved by her reproaches. 

"That is absurd; you must have some reason. 
Do you know what you drive me to think, Cyril ? " 

He looked earnestly at her, and she answered 
his look. 

" I sometimes think that a disgraceful secret con- 
nected with some one very near to you has to be 
concealed at any cost. " She expected to see a look 
of anger and reproach, but she saw nothing of the 
kind. 

He had grown a little paler, all unknowingly. 
Were her surmises not just? But, though they were 
so in one sense, it would be misleading her to agree 
to them as she meant them, and, though it would have 
smoothed difficulties for him, he could not do this. 



* Can you give ?ne no Reason ? " 5 

" You may surmise or think what you like, I 
cannot explain. I have asked you to accept my 
wish as a reasonable woman; if you have no con- 
fidence in me — if you cannot trust me " 

She was surprised by his taking her inquiry so 
much to heart. As he put it, what could she say? 

She lay silent. vSo much she conceded, but she 
was too truthful to give assurances which were 
untrue; and she revolved it all in her mind. 

He imagined that he had convinced her, and was 
pleased that the matter had ended so quietly. 

As she lay there, the shaded light near her made 
her features almost invisible, while his were in fuller 
light. She watched his countenance, and it struck 
her that he looked careworn and tired. Prompted 
more by womanly thought than any affection she 
asked him whether he was well. " You look tired. 
Have you been busy to-day ? What have you been 
doing?" 

" I have had a tiring day. " 



6 A Brilliant Woman. 

* Ah, T suppose I must not inquire further?" she 
said, with a tinge of mockery. 

" It would not interest you — a magistrates' meet- 
ing/ 

"Is it at these meetings that people are hanged?" 
asked his wife. 

** Good heavens ! what a question, " he exclaimed. 
* I suppose you are turning it into ridicule as 
usual. " 

" I know they are not hanged there and then, 
but you settle then if they are to be hanged or not,, 
do you not? " 
- " No, " he said shortly. 

" Then what do you do for so many hours, with 
nothing exciting to talk about ? " 

He could not bear the light way in which she 
spoke. It jarred upon him, especially just now, 
because of a terribly sad story he had been obliged 
to listen to that day. 

** I am growing so stupid lying here," she said, 



•* Can you give me no Reason f 7 

"that if I do not get out soon I shall be almost 
ready to hang myself." 

"Rather strong language, is it not?" he said 
curtly. 

* You see if I do not use strong language you 
never listen to me," she said with some asperity. 

"That is a mistake." 

• It is no mistake. When I was talking to you 
at first you looked bored; then you looked at the 
fire; then you went into a day-dream. You never 
listened or cared till I said something startling, 
something that displeased you." 

" I am sorry, " he said gravely, realising that she 
was tired of her invalid life, and a little remorseful 
because so much truth lay in her accusation. 

" It does not matter, " she added, after a pause, 
during which she half expected and half hoped that 
he would say a few words showing some interest 
in her recovery — a wish at any rate to see her down- 
stairs again. But Cyril said nothing, and Maria, who 



8 A Brillia)if Woman. 

had been making many resolutions, and who was 
conscious of shortcomings in the past, felt chilled 
by his silence. 

Even in strong health she missed the affectionate 
flatteries of her aunt, the adulation of her girl friends, 
the companionship and life of a large party. In 
sickness she missed them all still more. Now she 
had be©n lying on her couch, and feeling unusually 
low, and very sorry for herself, and a dread had 
seized her that her life might be all as completel}' 
empty of those things she cared for. wShe saw a 
long vista of years stretching out into an intermin- 
able length, and Cyril cold, critical, unsympathetic. 
She shivered a little. Her husband was good. Of 
course he was good; but if he was in love with 
her, passionately in love, Avhy had he always judged 
her, and judged her severely? For this, her instinct 
told her, was the case. 

" Cyril, " she said suddenly, so suddenly as to 
make him start, "may I ask you a question?" 



" Can you give me no Reason ?" g 

" Certainly. " 

*I often wonder and I want to know, Why did 
you marry me ? ** 

Cyril looked at her in blank amazement. What 
was he to say? He had never professed violent 
love for her, and he had no idea how violent his 
love had been represented to her. 

" I suppose that 1 hoped, as you did, to lead a 
happy life together." 

" That is no answer. People in love do not hope ; 
they feel quite sure. Were you very much in love 
with me?" 

" I— I suppose so. ** The unfortunate man was 
fairly driven into a corner. What had taken hold 
of her imagination now, and possessed her to put 
these questions? 

" I sometimes think that people lied to me. Cyril, 

I was told " Then a swift remembrance came to 

her. The affection he had been credited with had 
hardly weighed with her. What did weigh was the wish 



lo A Brilliant Woman. 

to conquer one she was told could not be conquered. 
He might admire her, he might be desperately in 
love ; but marry her — never ! He was not a marry- 
ing man. He was quite out of her reach ; and she had 
determined to win him, and she had triumphed. 
What had resulted from such a triumph? 

He watched her curiously, wondering what agi- 
tated her. 

" I think I have been here long enough, " he 
said, rising and patting her head in a way that 
made her feel like a chidden child, and yet he meant 
it kindly. " You are talking too much and exciting 
yourself. " 

His firm steps died away down the long passage, 
and Maria covered her face in her hands. 

Hot, scalding tears came to her unaccustomed 
eyes. "All my life, and I am so young!" she 
whispered to herself, full of intense self-pity. Cyril 
was glad that Aunt Anne was coming to dine, and 
keep him company. Nothing puzzled him more 



•* Can you give ?ne ?io Reason f 1 1 

than the variable moods of his wife. Of course, 
this last conversation was the outcome of her fall 
and her bruises, her sprained shoulder, and all the 
rest of the trouble of that accident. 

But the question put to him had gone to his heart, 
and a misgiving crossed his mind. She had said 
** people lied to me. " Had they lied to him also, 
and to what end? He had been assured that she 
loved him — was it also a lie? 

Since their marriage she had never shown any 
affection. She was generally pleasant, sometimes 
particularly gay — fitful latterly, but he had been glad 
that her affection for him was not of a demonstrative 
kind. He would have felt that he had done her a 
great wrong if it had been so; and if she gave 
more than he could give in return. 

All the same, no man likes having been in any 
way coerced, and if her love was not ver}' great 
he had been dealt with unfairly. What thought 
had stopped her when she had begun that sentence. 



12 A Brilliant Woman. 

and who had lied to her? At any rate, just now, 
when the doctor had feared that her injuries were 
serious, he could say no more to her. She was 
recovering, but she was not herself. And when 
she was quite well — What use was there in going 
back to preliminaries? They were to be together 
as long as they lived. He was too old for romance. 
He had outlived all those vague dreams and hopes 
and wishes. They would jog on harmoniously in 
time, and he would be patient, and not expect 
too much. 

Cyril Burlington entirely forgot that at his wife's 
age romance was not dead; and, indeed, when does 
it die? Are there not instances of real pure love 
and unbounded devotion at all ages and in all 
circumstances. Sometimes we see it outlive the 
daily cares and anxieties of married life, and throwing 
a lovely light over old age — outliving, indeed, the loss 
of personal beauty and attractiveness, and everything 
a shallow world imagines necessary to maintain it. 



" Can you give me no Reason f 13 

But Cyril Burlington knew really nothing of it. 
He had gone his own way all his life very calmly 
and quietly, and had been accustomed to gaze with 
some astonishment at the evidence of passion and 
deep affection in others. Indeed he was conscious 
of feeling a little superior to those swimming in a 
turbulent stream, and to acknowledge with some 
gratitude that he was really very much better off 
than they were. Now he was quite as thankful, 
perhaps, but he did not like the idea of having been 
told a lie. And once more he asked himself what 
had been the reason of it? 

What object had Mrs. Kingson in arranging this 
marriage, if she had arranged it? 

And to this enquiry he could bring no satisfac- 
tory answ^er. He pushed reflections aside, and 
dressed quickly, for Aunt Anne was coming to 
dinner, and she must not see that anything was wrong. 



CHAPTER 11. 

THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. 

It looked like old times to Mr. Burlington when 
he and Aunt Anne sat down to dinner, with no 
brilliant third to divert attention to herself. Like 
old times, with a difference. Maria was one of the 
women who most thoroughly understood arranging 
and ordering a dinner, and, though Mr. Burlington 
professed to be indifferent about his dinner, he was 
quite alive to the immense improvement his wife 
had effected in that direction. 

The proverb about the dinner of herbs does not 
provide for the careless cooking of those herbs, and 



The Light of other Days. 1 5 

where the mistress is indifferent — and some women 
count it a merit to be indifferent —the cook ver^' 
naturally takes advantage. 

While carefully remembering Cyril's especial tastes 
Miss Burlington had always been quite content 
to allow Mrs. Butt to propose what she liked to 
make, and seldom objected to anything. 

In the hands of young Mrs. Burlington this was 
all altered, and Mrs. Butt, who, during the first 
month, frequently determined to give up her place, 
ended by thoroughly respecting a mistress who 
understood what had gone wrong, and w^here the 
fault lay. She began to take far more interest in 
the perfection of her sauces and flavourings when 
she found that her efforts were appreciated, and 
to take infinitely more pains, as no mistake was 
slurred over. 

Maria's energetic temperament was of use in all 
the household arrangements, and, as Aunt Anne 
noted the many small signs of improvement which 



1 6 u4 Brilliant Woman. 

she was too generous not to admire openly, Cyril 
agreed with her. All men should care, and almost 
all do care, for refinement in detail, and as they 
are helpless when a women really directs household 
matters, she has to exert the power of two minds, 
and face difficulties because of the real importance 
of results. It would be a great shock to many 
affectionate wives if they knew the truth, that ill- 
health, bad temper, indigestion, want of sleep, and 
all else, lie at the door of their ignorance, careless- 
ness, or worse. 

In answer to Aunt Anne, Cyril said, absently, 
" I agree with you. Things are somehow better 
done. The servants take more pains, I suppose.** 
" They know that they have a master mind to 
deal with, " said Aunt Anne, pleasantly. " Do you 
know, Cyril, I find something fresh to admire every 
time I see your wife ? She is always the same, and 
yet each time I find a new virtue. She knows so 
much about gardening. I fancied that she had lived 



The Light of other Days. 17 

too much in London to know much about flowers, 
but she knows really a great deal more than I do. " 

Cyril assented with a vague murmur. He was 
conscious of being able to admire a great deal, and 
to feel ungracious and ungrateful, and yet he missed 
in his wife and his home life what he had always 
looked forward to. 

There was no real confidence between them, and 
there can be none without affection. 

If the outlook was dreary to Maria, it was almost 
worse for her husband, as he knew much she did 
not know which pointed to disagreeables in the 
future. In this chaotic world we often obtain what 
we do not much care for, and we do not get what 
we do especially want. If Cyril Burlington had 
been asked what he most disliked, he would have 
answered, any scandal ; any stories about his 
family and his name. Now, how long could he feel 
sure of keeping clear of this? 

Oppressed by his thoughts, and feeling that he 

VOL. II. 2 



1 8 A Brilliant: Woman. 

was rousing affectionate anxiety in his aunt's mind, 
he said, suddenly: "I forget if you understand that 
my candidature is at an end." 

"Can you explain to a non-political person like 
myself what reasons you have for not going on 
with your election ?" 

" I am acting on advice. " 
"But whose, my dear Cyril?" 
"The political friends who have just been here." 
" And you go entirely by their advice ? You are 
sure it is disinterested?" 

" Positive, " he answered, with a faint smile. " If 
I stood, if I won, I should be on their side. There 
is no doubt that their advice is disinterested enough. " 
"Are you much disappointed, my dear?" 
" Every man has an ambitious dream occasion- 
ally. But I am convinced that they are right. Aunt 
Anne," he said, suddenly, "why should I fence 
with you, or try to conceal the truth from you? 
In one way, giving it up is a great relief to me. 



The Light of other Days. 19 

If I had gone on — if I had stood— the opposition 
candidates were prepared to carry placards with a 
ballet-girl. It would have been terrible for her — 
for us both." 

"My dear Cyril!" 

"The day of that meeting she heard some one 
say something about a dancing girl." 

" Good heavens ! and then ..." 

" She imagined that it referred to her dancing 
here, and blamed herself I let her think so. You 
would have me tell the truth ?" 

" Not at that moment, perhaps. But oh ! if I 
could convince you how far, far better it would be 
if you could bring yourself to tell her the exact 
truth. I do think it cruel and unfair putting her 
in a false position. It will lead to many unfore- 
seen complications in the end." 

" I cannot do it ! I cannot claim her gratitude and 
pose before her as having been generous. As 
it is " 



20 A Brilliant Woman. 

He stopped, and walked away for a moment. 
Loyalty to his wife stopped the words upon his 
tongue. How confess that he had married without 
affection, and that he had begun to doubt hers! 
That he had been flattered and misled, and that he 
had discovered that he had been deluded and even 
lied to? He turned round after a few moments, 
and his countenance betrayed agitation. Miss Bur- 
lington's heart ached for him. She had deemed that 
his marriage had brought him happiness. Had she 
been wrong throughout? 

But before she had time to collect her thoughts 
her nephew had plunged into an amusing account 
of a farmer's marriage, a subject in which she was 
interested, as he was an old tenant. After dinner 
a message came from Mrs. Burlington that she 
wanted them both to have coffee in her sitting- 
room with her. They rose and went upstairs. 

Mr. Burlington was surprised to see the affection- 
ate greeting between his wife and Aunt Anne, 



The fJi^hf of other Days. 2 1 

notinj^- tho smilinj^ f^yos and li[)s which had never 
smiled (iiiite in lli(i same way ii])on him. 

" 1 1 ere J am with a crif)|)led lej^ and a maimed 
shoulder. I hope you had a pleasant little dinner," 
Maria said, affectionately, kissinj^*- Aunt Anne, and 
extcndini^ one hand to her husl)and. 

"It is too late tr) say '(iood morning'. Shall we 
say *(iood evening;-'? " she continued, lookinjjf calmly 
at Cyril; "shall I add, have you used somebody's 
soap, to make it all quite complete?" 

In this way she Id Aunt Anne know, as she 
wished to do, that she wanted to miike her ques- 
tion her. 

"Have you not met before?" asked Aunt Annc^ 
very innocently, in ^'■reat surprise. 

" Of course we have ; but (^yril was so much 
occupied in giving- me advice and scolding me that 
he never thought of saying * Good morning', lam 
conventional, and I like the attention, even knowing 
it to be meaningless." 



2 2 A Brillia7it Woman, 

Poor Aunt Anne felt helplessly bewildered, and 
her answer was a very indefinite murmur. 

" County business " was all that was heard of that 
murmur. 

" I find it very dull lying here, and I am going 
to ask one or two friends to come and stay with 
me," said Maria, with a quick glance at her hus- 
band's face. 

" Are you, my dear? That is a good plan. Your 
aunt, perhaps, would come." 

Cyril said nothing. 

" Oh, I am not thinking of my aunt. She could 
not come. I mean girl friends of mine. Of course 
I would far rather have men, but men are at a 
discount here. One is not supposed to speak to 
any man under a hundred." 

" I fancy, as you are laid up with your unfortu- 
nate knee, that men would be a little in the way. " 
Aunt Anne spoke quite seriously. She had thought 
it an odd thing to say. 



The Light of other Days. 23 

" I have, you see, a talent for men. I like my 
girl friends, but — they are not so amusing." 

Cyril's face betrayed his annoyance at her talking 
this nonsense to his aunt. 

Maria was charmed to have provoked him. Any- 
thing was better than indifference. " You need not 
look quite so murderous, Cyril. There is no chance 
of my seeing Mr. Wyncote or any other man. 
Aunt Anne, do you know Mr. Wyncote? so hand- 
some, so clever, so well-bred. Cyril dislikes him; 
I cannot imagine why." 

Poor Aunt Anne got most uncomfortable. She 
began to see that there was a great deal between 
husband and w4fe that was not right, and it made 
her infinitely sad. But, meek and quiet as she was, 
and arriving with a certain deliberation at any con- 
clusions, she was yet capable of action if she felt 
action to be right. 

" You are not too ill for music? " she said, in a 
tone half of inquiry, half assertion, and she opened 



24 A Brilliant Woman. 

the small piano standing at a little distance and 
began to play. 

Aunt Anne's playing was one of her gifts. She 
had one of those perfectly musical intuitions which 
one meets with at rare intervals. Sweet, old-fash- 
ioned melodies came softly from her delicate finger- 
tips, airs that reminded the hearer of the perfume 
of pot-pourri and the world of long ago as we con- 
ceive it to have been. Brilliant playing would 
have seemed as much out of keeping with her 
gentle presence as a fashionable fuzzy toupee; but 
the lovely old English, Irish, and Scottish airs were 
given with a pathos which in a world of incessant 
hurry are seldom heard. 

Maria, who was a musician, and really loved 
melody, was moved as she was seldom moved. 

All her assumption of flippancy, all her little 
airs and graces, were forgotten; and as each air 
came sweeping across her senses her emotion 
found vent in large tears that flowed silently over 



The Light of other Days. 25 

her face unchecked, and, as she trusted, unobserved. 
When she had played a good many thmgs Aunt 
Anne began modulating, telling a sort of story as 
she went along, and telling it beautifully. Cyril 
was sitting listening with real delight, and turned 
to see whether his wife was appreciative or whether, 
to use her own expression, she was bored. Once 
again he was puzzled; once again he thought that 
he saw tears. 

But when Miss Burlington had finished and was 
rising, Maria called out gaily, " Now, dear auntie, 
pray play something cheerful; else I shall dream 
to-night that I was assisting at my own funeral 
to the dead march in 'Saul'." 

Then Cyril felt that he had been mistaken. Of 
course there had been no tears. 



CHAPTER III. 

OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY GENUS. 

Mr. Burlington did not contemplate with much 
satisfaction the arrival of the girl friends his wife 
had spoken of. But he could make no objection. 
He gave her less and less of his society, and, though 
many of the county neighbours had called and said 
that when invited they were willing to come, neither 
their spontaneous civility nor the response they gave 
to invitations was very hearty, or, it may be said, 
very friendly. As before stated, young Mrs. Burling- 
ton liked dazzling people, and did not care to please 
them. 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 27 

The younger women did not pretend to care for 
one who almost invariably eclipsed them. Mothers 
very naturally objected to a young woman who 
monopolised the attention of all the young men, 
and whose clothes were of a cut and make that 
were a marked, a painful, contrast to the very 
provincial garments worn by their daughters. A 
brilliant woman pays directly or indirectly many a 
penalty; and we all know that the most brilliant 
light casts the blackest shadow. 

Therefore Mrs. Burlington passed many days in 
her own society, and did not find her own society 
amusing. Only one friend could come. Flora Harring- 
ton had not perhaps been one of her greatest friends 
during her school life, and had in those days been 
much inclined to question the position taken up by 
Maria Kingson. But a schoolgirl without a father 
or mother, without a charming place to ask 
you to in the short holidays, who possessed no 
more pocket-money than the other girls, was one 



28 A Brilliant Woman. 

thing, and a young woman, entirely her own mistress, 
with a place, a good-natured husband, and many 
thousands a year, was quite another. 

Flora, whose people had no "place," and who 
was not well off, was enchanted to be invited to 
the Burlingtons', and went, it may be added, prepared 
to stay. Flora was what is called a very lively girl. 
She was not very pretty, and she was not clever; 
but she was shrewd, knew how to make the most 
of herself, and was absolutely without shyness or 
reserve. In plain English, she was marvellously 
impudent, and her audacity at times and with certain 
people was counted as wit. She had quite made up 
her mind that it would be useful to make a conquest 
of Mr. Burlington. There was no sort of use in 
being Mrs. Burlington's friend if the husband did 
not approve of her. To achieve the subjugation of 
Mr. Burlington she must wait to see how things 
stood, and in what way she could best carry out 
her project. 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 29 

It is only fair to add that the conquest in question 
was only intended to be platonic and perfectly 
harmless; but she wanted to be on terms with the 
Burlingtons likely to lead to a prolonged stay. Flora, 
even more than most people, hated small means, 
visible small economies, indifferent accommodation, 
and all the pressing evils of a narrow income, as 
she hated drizzling rain, cold, or anything in the 
world that was disagreeable. It was delightful to 
her pleasure-loving nature to be invited to stay " for 
a good long time," and her harmless ambition was 
to make her visit very long indeed. 

Mr. Burlington found her established at his wife's 
feet when he came in late. She was sitting on a 
low stool, and her very fluffy head reclining against 
Mrs. Burlington's knee. 

She was very large, with an innocent baby face 
contradicted by a large and very sensual mouth. 
She looked up at Mr. Burlington with her most 
innocent expression as Maria introduced her husband. 



30 . A Brt'lltant Woman. 

" I am too comfortable to move. Oh, I hope you 
don't mind," she said with the self-possession of fifty; 
" and I am so pleased to find a friend unchanged 
after so many months of the terrible ordeal of 
matrimony." 

"I am glad you find my wife looking well. I 
myself think her sprained knee and the injury to 
her shoulder have left traces, and that she looks pale. " 

" I find her delightfully the same ; her brilliancy 
undimmed, her personality the same. It is very 
pleasant. You must have taken very good care of 
her." Flora spoke this with emphasis. 

Mr. Burlington looked at her gravely, as at a 
new species. He was tired and wanted a cup of 
tea, and regretted having gone to his wife's room 
for it, when he found the new arrival there. He 
had forgotten that she was coming that day, and 
he had also forgotten to order the carriage to fetch 
her. With compunction he asked his wife whether 
she had remembered to send it to the station. 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 3 1 

Flora answered for her in quite an apologetic 
tone— "Oh, pray don't think that it mattered, but 
she did remember it. Molly is not one of those 
who forgets." 

Mr. Burlington drank his tea in silence. It jarred 
upon him to hear this girl calling his wife by a 
familiar pet name. 

" What a heavenly house you have, Mr. Burling- 
ton. I may tell you that everyone has been won- 
dering what sort of shrine you kept her in, and 
whether it was fit for the fair being who was en- 
shrined in it. Please don't smile, Mr. Burlington! 
I nearly did say entombed, but I didn't say it. If 
I had said it, would you ever have forgiven me? 
You see, any country place is dull, deadly dull, 
especially for any one with brilliant, social gifts. 
But when I arrived — Now I have seen the shrine, 
I see many mitigations!" 

" I am glad to hear it, " said Mr. Burlington, 
gravely. 



32 A Brilliant Wojnan. 

** Are you really ? Well, I tell you that I adore 
old trees, old houses, and old — men!" 

She said this with her most innocent baby ex- 
pression, but gave a quick look at him to see how 
he took it. Maria laughed merrily. " This love of 
the antique is something new, Flossy. I never 
knew old things had any attraction for you." 

**Ah, I adore old things — with reservations, of 
course — old clothes, and very ugly old men. Who- 
ever liked old clothes?" 

" My husband does. He has many suits no one 

would thank you for, and his hats They are 

much more than historical." 

** Shall we draw a veil over them ? It seems the 
appropriate thing to do regarding old hats." 

"I assure you," laughed Maria, who was excited 
by Flora's high spirits, "that when I pass a scare- 
crow I have to look twice to see whether it is 
not perhaps my husband." 

"Oh, Maria!" said Flora in a shocked voice. "Pray 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 33 

don't mind her, Mr. Burlington. We must excuse 
her because she is an invalid." 

Mr. Burlington was not a good-tempered man, and 
this last speech sent him straight out of the room. 

Flora looked pensively at the fire, and said, "What 
have I said? What have I done? I did so wish 
to be friends with him!" 

" Please, don't be a goose. Flora, " said her hostess, 
with sharpness. " Do you suppose my husband 
can be vexed with silly speeches like these." 

•* Oh, but I know he was vexed, dear. Shall I 
beg his pardon ? Oh, dear Molly, why did you not 
warn me ? You might have told me that your hus- 
band was— difficult." 

"Flora, you are too silly. What does it all 
matter. " 

" It matters a great deal to me. I think your 
husband is " 

" Now, Flora, pray be quiet ; you are as bad as 

ever. You are very provoking." 

VOL. II. \ 



34 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

"Provoking, my child? No, anything but that. 
But cheer up, dear, and I will tell no one else that 
I think that your husband is a bear/ 

"Flora!" 

"Molly!" 

" If you wish to keep my friendship, you must 
never say this to me again. I allow no one to 
discuss my husband with me." 

" Dear, dear, dear ; how cross we are. Well, then 
I will promise never to discuss him. Of course, with 
all this, " she said, waving her hands round the room, 
"you expected to have something to put up with?" 

Maria was so angry that she thought it best to 
say nothing, and a somewhat marked silence lasted 
for some moments. 

"Are you never going to speak to me again?" 
asked Flora in a voice of comic despair, making 
an absurd gesture of anguish. 

"We can talk on any other subject," Maria an- 
swered, trying to recover her equanimity. 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 35 

" Very well, but if I may not say what I want 
to say just now, I really shall blow up, my head 
will be overstocked with ideas." 

Maria said nothing. 

" If I may speak without risking the terrible fate 
of having my head chopped off, I should like to 
ask one question — to say one thing." 

"Say anything you like," said Maria, a little 
wearily, "as long as you do not abuse my husband 
to my very face." 

" I will solemnly promise only to do it behind 
your back," said Flora Harrington with trembling 
eyes ; and then she added in a great hurry, " I am 
very much surprised, Molly, neither you nor your 
husband are the very least in love. It is very 
funny. Were you in love? Was he in love? 
How was it?" 

Maria crimsoned. ^ How can you tell? How can 
you judge?" she asked angrily. 

" Oh, my child ! I have had the disease so very 



36 A Brilliant Woman. 

badly myself. I know the signs so well. You and 
Mr. Burlington are equally indifferent to each other. 
That is quite plainly to be seen." 

" You think so because we are not demonstrative 
people ; " but Maria's heart beat quick with indignant 
annoyance. 

•* My dearest Molly, you frighten me ; you look 
so fiery. I declare I'm in a blue funk. I thought 
that as a real friend we might talk quite openly to 
each other." 

" But do you not understand that even between 
friends some subjects are sacred." 

" I didn't know ; how could I ? I am not married, 
worse luck! Only Maria, with your beauty and 
your gifts, you could make any man, even your 
husband, passionately, violently in love with you I 
There is one infallible receipt for a man's indifference ; 
make him jealous— make him frantically jealous. " 

Maria was speechless. Never had she been 
thrown quite alone with Flora Harrington before. 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 37 

How completely she had misunderstood her character. 
She spoke now with an effort at self-command, and 
said quietly; "I am sorry to have only a dull visit 
to offer you." 

"Are you going to see no one — have no one 
here to see me?" said Flora Harrington in a tone 
of tragic despair. 

"Not just yet. My shoulder has been badly 
hurt, and I am obliged to keep quiet for the present. 
I warned you. Flora." 

"Oh, I don't mind a bit; but, of course, it is a 
little dull for me without a coat in sight." 

Maria was much startled by the way in which 
Flora spoke. Was it possible that she had always 
been the same, and that the change was in herself? Or 
had Flora deteriorated, and grown terribly vulgar? 

"I hope very soon to be better. I will do my 
best to amuse you," she answered quietly. She 
trusted Flora would not make such speeches to 
Aunt Anne or to her husband. 



38 A Brilliant Woman. 

Flora ostentatiously suppressed a yawn. " I must 
go and see about flowers for my gown to-night, " 
she said, patting her fluffy head all over with her 
large white hands. " I have to live up to my name, 
and I adore flowers, and wear a great quantity — 
when I can get them. " 

" Tell Malcolm what you want, and he will cut 
them for you, Flora. " 

" Malcolm being No. i . in the garden, I suppose ; 
all right, if I don't find him I will help myself, " 
and before Maria could answer her she had gone. 

It may be mentioned that Flora made no effort 
to find the gardener. She sauntered through the 
conservatory and hot-houses, and despoiled both, 
and, not being accustomed to cut hot-house flowers, 
did considerable mischief She used no knife or 
scissors, but tore bunches of stephanotis off as high 
as she could reach them, thereby damaging trails 
of nearly two years' growth; and, being anxious 
to wear white, or nearly white, she picked or 



Of the Ni7ieteenth Century Genus. 39 

rather wrenched off a large quantity of nephitos 
roses, the cherished hope of a coming flower show. 
Well contented with her spoils, she went into the 
house and found her way to her room, where she 
arranged the flowers to her satisfaction. 

Mr. Burlington was a little surprised at the lavish 
display, and privately reflected a little severely on 
Malcolm's undue generosity. All he said was, " Do 
you always wear a great many flowers ? " His tone 
was not unkind, but there w^as evidently surprise, 
and not pleasant surprise. 

" I am Flora. I am obUged to live up to my 
name. Do you mind ? Molly gave leave, " she 
answered. 

Mr. Burlington said nothing. Expecting a tete- 
a-tete. Miss Harrington was in her turn surprised 
to hear an arrival, and to see Aunt Anne enter 
upon the scene. " The chaperon, " she said to 
herself " This is amusing. *' Mr. Burlington's 
affectionate greeting and the introduction that fol- 



40 A Brilliant Woman. 

lowed explained things, but Flora Harrington was 
rather at a loss to understand the evident relief 
expressed by her host. She was not flattered. It 
would have amused her far more to have found 
herself sitting alone at dinner with Mr. Burlington, 
and able to study him. At present he was an 
unknown quantity, she said to herself. There was 
also something about Aunt Anne which somewhat 
subdued her, and a twinkle in the elderly woman's 
eyes which a little daunted her. It may be said that 
expression misled many people, for Aunt Anne could 
not make fun of anyone, though her sense of the 
ridiculous was quick enough. At any rate, the false 
impression was of some use on the present occasion. 

" Where shall I sit ? " asked Flora, gaily, as they 
went into the dining-room and she found herself at 
a round table. " Pray do not think of me, Miss 
Burlington. I will sit anywhere. " 

" I am afraid I was not thinking of you, " said 
Aunt Anne, seriously. " I was sorry that on the 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 4 1 

occasion of your first visit here my niece was not 
able to fill her own place. When two people are 
at home, and one is a visitor, " laughed Aunt Anne, 
"much thought is not required." 

Miss Harrington made no reply. As dinner went 
on Aunt Anne noticed the large bunch of roses, 
and spoke of them. "Malcolm has been more 
generous than I ever imagined he had it in him to 
be at this moment," she said, in a peculiar tone. 

"May I ask why?" 

" Because of the flower show. He intends to win 
the first prize with some of those lovely nephitos 
roses. He must have an immense quantity to have 
spared you so many, and he has been lavish. I 
see many buds." 

" You see, I did not find him. I took them myself. 
I suppose it comes to the same thing ? " Miss Har- 
rington's tone was indifferent more than apologetic. 
But she was provoked with herself, and felt that 
she had done a stupid thing. 



42 A Brillia7it Wo??ian. 

Mr. Burlington and his aunt looked at each other. 
They were equally annoyed. Conversation languished 
after this, when Miss Harrington farther astonished 
them. Pushing back her chair, she said, glancing 
round quite as if she were doing the right thing, 
" Shall we go upstairs ? " leaving Miss Burlington 
and her nephew to make their own comments on 
this extraordinary breach in the manners and cus- 
toms of the class they belonged to. 

"I beg your pardon, Aunt Anne. I never saw 
your signal," exclaimed Mr Burlington, hurrying to 
the door. 

" For the best reason in the world, " said Flora, 
airily ; " she never made one. I thought we never, 
never, never were going to move," and, with a 
laugh which was full of mischievous glee, she passed 
through the doorway into the next room. 

" I wonder whether she is a single specimen, or 
one of a number," said Mr. Burlington, blankly. 
" How long is she going to stay, and what can my 



Of the Nineteenth Century Genus. 43 

wife see in her to like ? If this is the sort of ftiend 
she hkes and cherishes, I no longer feel surprised 
that she finds she is bored here." 

But as a just man he reflected that his wife had 
never done an ill-bred thing, and that she had 
begged not to see Miss Harrington that evening, 
though she would like to see Aunt Anne. 

The friendship between his wife and Aunt Anne 
was always a source of comfort to him, and he 
went to the drawing-room to give his wife's mes- 
sage. Flora had made herself quite happy by piling 
all the sofa cushions upon the rug, and sitting down 
in front of a small fire, lit because of Aunt Anne's 
chilly proclivities. 

Mr. Burlington looked at her for a moment, and 
considered that her attitude was not a becoming one 
to a very large figure. Then he took his book, 
and sat down to read as usual. 

" Shall I get a book for you, Miss Harrington ? " 
he asked, politely. 



44 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

"No; thanks. I am going to bed directly." 

" Do you always go to bed very early ? " asked 
Aunt Anne, by way of saying something. 

"It all depends," answered Flora, naively, and 
without in the last intending to be rude. " If I am 
amused I sit up; if I am bored I go to bed." 

She went to bed very early indeed. 



CHAPTER IV. 

MISTAKES. 

That Miss Harrington should treat his aunt with 
respect and consideration was one point Mr. Bur- 
lington determined to make clear to his wife, and 
through her to her friend. The difficulty lay in the 
fact that Flora, on supremely good terms with 
herself, acted without in the very least being aware 
that her actions were extraordinary. Reared roughly 
in the country, where she had no society, she was 
absolutely ignorant of any rules. The very few 
second-rate people she knew thought her impudence 
wit, and encouraged her. She was not at all a 



46 A Brilliant Woman. 

bad-hearted girl; but she was a type of one im- 
perfectly educated, thrown too young on her own 
resources, and steeped in the novels all good mothers 
eschew for their daughters as a rule. 

Her mother, a woman with small means and 
many daughters, brought them up with the idea 
that they must marry, and as soon as possible. 
She farther considered that, given opportunity, they 
could marry whom they pleased. "Just make up 
your mind to marry some good man when he asks 
you. You cannot afford to wait. " Most of Flora's 
sisters had married — some well; some very badly; 
but she herself, while having endless flirtations, 
remained Flora Harrington, to her mother's annoy- 
ance and her own surprise. Unfortunately, when 
Mr. Burlington spoke to his wife he forgot that she had 
not been present when the offence was given, and 
that, as he made a general accusation, and did not 
condescend to details, he left his story half untold. 

No one would have been more vexed, no one 



Mistakes. 47 

would have been more humiliated, than his wife 
had she known the whole truth. 

" I am sorry you do not like Flora, " she said, feeling 
bound to defend her friend. " She has a very good heart. " 

" She has atrocious manners. " 

"Has she?" 

" Then those roses. By the way, she said you 
gave her leave to get them. Malcolm is in despair. 
He has nothing to show, and he feels it keenly. 
I wish you would insist on her asking for things, 
and not taking them. " 

Maria was too generous to say that she had 
begged her to let Malcolm cut them, and, as she 
was too truthful to mislead him, she said nothing, 
and this annoyed him. 

" I am vexed more than I can say by this in- 
trusion just now. If you were well it would be 
different; but I shall have to breakfast with that 
girl, and she annoys me terribly. Did you intend 
her to be here for me to entertain ? " 



48 A Brtllia?it Woman. 

" No. I thought— I hoped — I should be all right. 
I am sorry. As for breakfast, we can breakfast in 
my sitting-room. I have many dull hours, and I 
thought Flora would cheer them. " 

He heard a ring of regret in her voice, and it 
made him still more vexed, because, as usual, it 
seemed to put him in the wrong. 

" I have no wish to deprive you of anything 
likely to cheer you, " he said kindly ; " but I am 
vexed that this sort of girl is the friend you choose ; 
and I suspect she has no intention of shutting her- 
self up to cheer your lonely hours. At any rate, 
things do not point that way at present." 

Maria had equal misgivings on this point; but 
she would not give up her friend, at any rate yet. 
The breakfast was ordered upstairs, and Flora was 
extremely amused. 

" I suppose your husband is frightened of me. 
I never knew I was terrifying before," she said, 
laughing. ** What a primitive creature he is ! You 



Mistakes. 49 

need not look cross, Maria; that is not abuse." 

She broke her egg in silence; then she asked, 
suddenly, "What plans have you made for me 
to-day? Am I to drive, or ride, or what is it to 
be ? This morning I intend to explore. But I am 
going to be in to lunch afterwards?" 

Mrs. Burlington saw that the wish to cheer her 
lonely hours was not taking an active form at present. 

" If you are out all the morning, we might read 
something together this afternoon," she suggested, 
with a little hesitation. 

" Read! my excellent and best of Marias ! Nothing 
is farther from my ideas of enjoyment, and you 
wish me to be happy, do you not ?" she added, 
with a pleading look and a pathetic little sigh. 

"Of course," said Maria, reflecting that her hus- 
band certainly had judged rightly. 

" Are there no cards I could leave for you any- 
where ? Have you no commissions ? I might drive 

to the little town I arrived at, and do some shop- 
VOL. II. 4 



50 A Brilliant Woman. 

ping. I see you have shopping to do ; that's all 
right. " She went off with a little nod ; came in to 
luncheon, put on a smart hat, and went to do the 
shopping she had proposed. 

She came in late, and had tea with Maria, giving 
a very amusing account of her expedition. When 
she paused Maria wanted to say something, and it 
was difficult to say. 

" Have you paid many country visits, Flora ; or 
is this your first?" 

" Now, what does your question imply ? Have 
I been in houses as big as this ? Never. I have 
been to relations who made use of me. I intend 
to make the most of my time here, I can tell you ! " 

"You know I do not wish to vex you; but will 
you remember that Aunt Anne is mistress of the 
house in my absence ?" 

" I am not likely to forget it." 

" I am afraid you did forget it last night. " 

«When?" 



Mistakes. 5 1 

" You took the initiative in some way. My hus- 
band was vexed." 

" Was he ? Good gracious ! he will often be 
vexed, I am afraid. I thought I was to make 
myself at home." She threw her head back and 
laughed heartily. " That's it, is it ? I have found 
it out. Now he looked indigo at me to-day. What 
other crime have I committed ? " 
Maria's colour rose. 

" Those roses. I begged you to let Malcolm 
cut them." 

"And as I did not see him, I took them." 
" And spoiled the flower show for him, and, I 
may add, spoiled my pet stephanotis also." 

"Really, Molly, if I have so many things to 
remember, so many prohibitions to attend to, I 
might just as well not have come. How changed 
you are, after all. When we were at school you 
would have been the very first to have done the 
same thing." 

IfBRARt 

UNr/ERsmr of ilunos 



52 A Brilliant Woman. 

"I hardly think so. However, Flora, please try- 
not to trespass again. Surely 3^our natural good 
sense will tell you that there are certain things....** 

" My excellent Maria, I have no good sense ; 
never had any. But, as your husband is so fright- 
fully particular, I will not offend him again, you'll 
see; or your aunt either." Then suddenly she 
altered her tone. " I give you my word, Maria, I 
never thought ! That is all. Don't be vexed, dear. 
You shall tell me everything you like, and I will 
be as good as gold." 

Then Maria kissed her, and peace was made, and 
when she left her and went down the corridor 
Maria murmured to herself, " I was quite right ; she 
has an excellent heart." 

Aunt Anne came to dinner that evening with small 
prospect of enjoyment; but she found a different 
Flora; a much-subdued Flora, who said to Mr. Bur- 
lington, "I do not owe you a grudge for telling 
tales of me, but why did you not scold me yourself? " 



Mistakes. 53 

" I had no wish to scold you, " he answered, 
somewhat taken aback ; " I asked my wife to speak 
to you." 

"You see, she told me beforehand to let the 
gardener cut those unhappy roses; only I thought 
it a fad of hers, and of no consequence." 

"Oh, she asked you herself to let Malcolm cut 
them ? " 

" Yes, and then I did it ; I very often for the fiin 
of the thing do exactly what I am told not to do, 
and I am sorry for it afterwards. I am sorry now. " 

She put her palms together after the fashion of 
a m^edieval saint, and dropped her eyelids. Mr. 
Burlington laughed, and Aunt Anne smiled also. 
Then other things were talked of When dinner 
was over Flora stood up with a ridiculous ex- 
pression of anxiety on her face. " Please have I been 
good?" she said, in a meek voice, and only the 
solemn entry of Marsham put an end to her in- 
tended speech. Maria was allowed to be moved down- 



54 A Brilliant Woman, 

stairs in a few days, and the prospect of society, 
drives, etc., considerably brightened up the drooping 
spirits of Miss Flora Harrington. Her spirits had 
drooped because she had not made any farther 
way with Mr. Burlington, whose opinion never 
changed. He had his own ideas upon the subject 
of Miss Harrington, but he kept them to himself 
He might not be in love with his wife, but he was 
not going to allow anyone else to bestow con- 
fidences upon him. 

Twice he had defeated Flora in a very quiet, 
perfectly straightforward way, and she was a young 
woman who disliked being defeated more than 
most people. 

He used a deep embrasure in the library a good 
deal, preferring it to his study for writing and 
reading. Flora arrived upon the scene one morning, 
hunted for a book, came and sat down opposite 
to him, and asked his advice about her choice of 
books in a manner that was flattering to him had 



Mistakes, 55 

he been a man to whom flattery was pleasant. 
But the invasion displeased him, and he showed 
it, by leaving the room with his book and not 
returning to it. Afterwards she said, " I was so 
shocked to find I had driven you away. I am 
so sorry ! Did I really disturb you so much ?" 

"Yes, you did drive me away," he said very 
quietly. "An unaccustomed presence is disturbing." 

" I thought, perhaps, that dear Molly sat there — 
that there was no harm." 

He understood perfectly that this had meant 
to sting, that she knew how far apart his wife and 
he were in these things, but he answered, with the 
rather haughty reserve which daunted her always : 
*The presence of a wife cannot be called an 
unaccustomed presence. That is different." 

The other time he had given her a well-deserved 
check was in his wife's presence. Flora had alluded 
to some trifling episode that had been talked over 
by Aunt Anne and himself as amusing, in a way 



56 A Brilliant Woman. 

to make it appear that there was a private under- 
standings between herself and Mr. BurUngton. Her 
only object was to amuse herself and, perhaps, 
disturb Maria's quiescent manner of accepting life 
as it was offered to her. But Mr. Burlington 
immediately turned to his wife, and made her so 
completely a party to the whole affair that Flora 
felt rather foolish. 

She meant no real mischief; she was only playing- 
with edged tools. She was not a child, and the 
remainder of the proverb escaped her memory. It 
is rather a terrible reflection, but it is a subject 
brought home to us every day, that the greatest 
mischief in private, as in public, life is as often 
brought about by the action of a foolish person as 
by one deliberately mischievous and 'Svith malice 
prepense." Flora's heart was good. She hated to 
see animals or human beings suffer ; she would 
have liked to be able to go through the world 
without a ruffle on the surface of her existence, and 



Mistakes. 57 

she would do anything in the world to escape a 
responsibility, or to avoid anything disagreeable. 
But she was indifferent to any sufferings she did 
not see, and, though she hated sorrow, it never 
occurred to her to do anything to relieve it. As 
long as everjrthing was kept out of her sight, 
nothing signified to her. 

Mr. Burlington asked himself whether his wife's 
eyes would always be shut to Miss Harrington's 
ways. To do her justice, he felt that his wife was 
herself very different, but intimacy with one so second- 
rate and so underbred lowered her in his opinion. 

Altogether, Miss Harrington's visit was not 
productive of much happiness to anyone. It may 
be added that, weighing the pleasures of a somewhat 
luxurious life against the gene of being obliged to 
behave herself (if she wished to stay on), the young 
lady thought at times that it was hardly worth 
while, and that it did not give her all the happiness 
she had expected. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE WYNCOTES OF WYNCOTE HUNDRED. 

The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred were people 
who were frequently quoted as instances of men 
who did things that would be forgiven in no other 
family, and yet who still held their heads up in 
the world, and were received everywhere — that is, 
almost everywhere. They exemplified the proverb 
of how one man may steal a horse, while another 
may not look over a hedge. 

For some generations they had possessed a very 
unenviable notoriety. Their hard drinking and 
gambling in old days, their escapades in one 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 59 

direction and another, the duels they had fought, 
the scrapes they had got into and out of, all these 
things were matters of histor}^ 

As usual, where these traditions are carried down 
through many generations, there was much that 
was exaggerated and untrue ; it may be added that 
there was also much that was true. The misfor- 
tune of such traditions is very great. The sons 
are apt to excuse follies, and to expect other people 
to excuse them on the strength of hereditary cha- 
racter — that is to say, those sons who are inclined 
to wildness. On the other hand, one out of such 
a family, however quiet, and good, and upright 
he may be, w^ill often be credited with the bad 
qualities he has a genuine horror of; and it is very 
difficult to rise superior to one's surroundings, and 
to shake off impressions which cling all too 
closely about your family and your way of life. 

The house of Wyncote Hundred was one of the 
real magnificent old places of England. The 



6o A Brilliajit Woman. 

family was Saxon, and had possessed the place 
from time immemorial. It may be added that it 
had never done anything to spoil it. 

In modern times and to modern utilitarian eyes 
the long passages, the huge rooms, and the deep 
windows were, all extraordinarily wasteful, taking 
space into consideration ; the house covered so much 
ground, being built in those delightful days when the 
restrictive idea of utilitarianism had not yet become 
a dogma. It stood rather high — high enough to 
look over massive woods and acres of deer park; 
and, if the family traditions were in one way very 
bad, on the other hand there was a curious feeling 
of affection and even devotion among the people 
for the family — a feeling which had survived many 
rude shocks, and which was the simple outcome 
of residence and constant residence among them. 

If the traditions were bad, as previously stated, 
at any rate there had never been a failing in kind- 
ness towards their dependents. Even in the house- 



The Wyncofes of Wyncote Hundred. 6i 

hold, with all the peremptory manner of swift com- 
mands, the ser\^ants held the position of friends, 
and the serv'ice was almost as hereditary as the 
tenants. No one could point to hardness on " the 
hundreds." In bad times the family and depen- 
dents stood together, and in good times they shared 
together. The family held a position envied by 
many richer and newer neighbours. 

The deer-park was very lovely, and extended up 
a hill, on the foot of which stood the house, and 
near the foot and higher up the ground was more 
broken and much wilder, ending in open moor 
called in the country " the waste. " The present 
proprietor of the place was a widower, an elderly 
man, and he had one son. In most counties, even 
when properties stand far apart, something is known 
about the different landowners. They are seen in 
church, or they take an interest in county business. 
In short, they are, at any rate, known by sight. 

But old ]Mr. Wvncote was of the Romish faith, 



62 A Brilliant Woman. 

and had a chapel in the house. Therefore, the parish 
church was never the richer for his presence, and 
the parishioners were never able to talk about him 
as they did of other squires. What was considered 
much worse was the way in which his child was 
brought up. His son had been at a Catholic semi- 
nary, and had travelled with a tutor. 

Many years ago there had been a terrible scan- 
dal, but it was so many years ago now that no one 
exactly remembered what it had all been about. 

Not that that mattered, for if a scandal existed 
nothing was too bad to believe; only, as people 
said, the Wyncotes did such extraordinary things 
that it must have been something desperately bad 
to have lived so long in everyone's remembrance. 
Old Mr. Wyncote did not look like a man who 
suffered from spasms of remorse. But, of course, he 
might be desperately hardened. He was upright in 
figure, of a fresh colour, with a clear grey eye, 
having an occasional merry twinkle in it that at 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred, 63 

times deepened into mockery. No man could possibly 
look less like a sinner. But, as somebody 
remarked, he might be " a whitened sepulchre, " 
for the world is nothing if not charitable. 

Charity does not always appear in talking about 
a neighbour, and the one consolation left for human 
nature is that sometimes the bitterest tongues do 
the kindest actions, and the person most prompt to 
abuse is often the most prompt to help. It is your 
indifferent people that neither blow hot nor blow 
cold that walk by and give no assistance. That Mr. 
Wyncote had had troubles, no one doubted. He 
had adored his wife and lost her very young, and 
one of an affectionate family living in perfectly 
harmonious relations with his sisters and brothers, 
he had survived them all. 

His son was a good-looking, bright young fellow, 
and people who were anxious to be witty, and 
who talked of homely wits, would have had to 
sharpen theirs in any encounter with him. But his 



64 A Brilliant Woman. 

interests were narrowed by the life he led. His father 
was his friend, his companion, and his confidant ; but 
until now he had never been in love. He was one of 
the men of whom it might be safely predicted that 
he would have that disease badly if he had it at all. 

He was w^alking with his father one day, and 
coming along the grass, followed by his favourite 
dog — a Pyrenean sheep dog which he had brought 
home with him, and which rejoiced in the name of 
Sebastian, but of course in a minimized form, and 
which answered to the abbreviation in the shape of 
" Basti. " There was no lack of conversation between 
father and son, both being equally interested in the 
buildings, drainage, births, deaths, and marriages 
on the property. 

"What are you thinking of doing just now?" 
asked Mr: Wyncote. 

" I was going to ride over and ask for Mrs. Bur- 
lington. It seems strange that she is still laid up. 
I am afraid her injury was greater than we knew." 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 65 

" So it appears. Go, my boy ; but I do not wish 
intimacy or acquaintance with them beyond what 
actual courtesy requires." 

"So you told me, father. Will you give me a 
reason? " 

" No ; because knowing it would do no good, and 
will certainly not add to your happiness." 

"Mrs. Burlington is very pretty, I think; but 
she looks unhappy." 

"Most women W' ould look unhappy after a nasty fall. " 

" It was w^hen she apparently had got over it. 
Her eyes look melancholy." 

" If that is the case, it is still more desirable that 
you should drop her acquaintance." 

" That seems a hard doctrine. " 

"Do you really think so?" and Mr. Wyncote 
looked his son steadily in the face. " If a young 
woman is unhappy in her married life, and is good- 
looking, is it prudent that a young man should 

console her?" 

VOL. II. 2 



66 A Brilliant Woman. 

His son flushed a little, and made no answer. 
He acknowledged to himself that he felt a particu- 
lar interest in Mrs. Burlington. There was some- 
thing unconventional and original about her that 
had taken hold of his imagination. 

He turned his father's words aside, however, 
lightly. 

" We have no right to suppose that Mrs. Bur- 
lington is unhappy in her married life.**^ 

" No right at all, " answered Mr. Wyncote, aware 
that he had committed an indiscretion. " We are 
putting a supposititious case altogether." 

They separated without farther talk. Young Wyn- 
cote strolled homewards in deep thought. 

" If it was that, " he said aloud, and then he went 
to change his things. 

He rode over "to inquire," and certainly had 
very little idea of seeing anyone. But as he drew 
near the house he met Flora Harrington in the 
avenue. His first impulse was to ride on. He did 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 67 

not know the young lady, and had certainly no 
intention of introducing himself to a stranger. But 
Flora turned deliberately, and, hurrying a little, 
arrived at the front door in time to see his cards 
handed over to the servant as he prepared to turn 
away. 

" You will be glad to hear, " said Flora, in her 
suavest manner, " that j\Irs. Burlington is much 
better, and in the sitting-room." 

"I am, indeed, glad. She is, then, almost well?" 

" Almost. Her wounds and bruises are fast be- 
coming things of the past. She was much obliged 
to you for your inquiries, and also grateful for your 
timely help." 

" As my shot caused the accident, I could do 
nothing less than assist her to the best of my ability." 

" Of course not. Are you in a great hurry to 
get home ? because Mrs. Burlington, I am sure, will 
see you. I know that she wishes to tell you how 
much she is indebted to you." 



68 A Brilliant Woman. 

Flora was drawing on her imagination, but it 
was not in her to lose the chance of having some 
one to amuse her. 

"I am Flora Harrington," she said, with a smile, 
"and Mrs. Burlington's great friend. Now you 
must tell me your name. Of course, Wyncote, but 
the nom de hapteme ? " 

" Horace, at your service, " he answered, laugh- 
ing. 

" And where do you come in the Wyncote 
family?" 

"I am sorry to say I stand alone. I am my 
father's only child." 

"Are you sorry?" said Flora, laughing. " I am 
one of many, and I would rather be an only daugh- 
ter, I assure you." 

"May we come in?" she asked, without waiting 
for an answer. "Here is Mr. Horace Wyncote 
come to ask in person how you are." 

Maria was lying back on her chair, and looked 



The Wyficotes of Wyncote Hundred. 69 

pale enough till she realised who it was. Then she 
felt annoyed, and a rush of crimson flooded her 
face. It was extremely tiresome of Flora, and the 
thing of all others that her husband would most 
object to. Horace Wyncote sat down, and began 
those sympathetic inquiries which were natural in 
the circumstances. 

By degrees the influence of his cordial manner 
and his pleasant voice drove away all regrets. He 
was a neighbour; she was a married woman, and 
not alone, as Flora Harrington was there; and 
Maria began to be quite at her ease, and to shine 
with her wonted brilliancy. She ordered up tea, 
and they were having quite a good time of it, 
when the door was thrown open and Cyril stood 
in the doorway, so astonished at the scene before 
him that he with difficulty mastered himself, and 
gave the conventional handshake. 

Horace Wyncote saw his expression, and felt that 
the suppositions of his father and himself were well 



JO A Brilliant Woman. 

founded. Mr. Burlington looked grave and dis- 
pleased. It was evident that the wish expressed 
by his father as to dropping the acquaintance was 
shared by Mrs. Burlington's husband. 

All women have a vein of obstinacy, and something 
of the spirit of contradiction in their composition, 
which quality in woman is generally called deter- 
mination or firmness. The fact of Mrs. Burlington's 
unhappiness, and the strong obstacles there appeared 
to be in the way of their being friends made Horace 
Wyncote determined to carry his point, and be 
accepted as a frequent visitor, if not a familiar friend. 
" Is the fellow never going ? " thought Mr. Bur- 
lington as he heard the animated conversation his 
entrance had momentarily interrupted carried on 
with renewed vigour. It gave him small consolation 
to see that it was Flora Harrington and not his 
wife who took the greatest share in it, because his 
wife seemed so thoroughly to enter into it and enjoy it. 
Where was the resigned expression and look of 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 71 

languor? Both had vanished now, and Maria, with 
her brightest look and a brightened colour, was her 
brilliant self once more. Was this briUiancy to be 
called forth only by strangers, and strangers who 
were distinctly obnoxious to him? His annoyance 
took the unbecoming form of a gravity so stem 
that young Wyncote commiserated more than ever 
the fate which had placed so dehghtful a girl in the 
clutches of so disagreeable a man! 

Maria was roused by her husband's evident and 
unjust displeasure to exert herself She not only 
enjoyed the war of words, which, according to her 
habit. Flora Harrington used as the quickest way 
of estabhshing an intimacy with anyone; but she 
also began to give and take, and laughed with the 
glee of a happy and careless child, over wit so 
poor as to be quite beyond recognition as far as 
her husband was concerned. He sat on, feehng 
out in the cold, and his irritation and annoyance 
increasing every moment. 



72 A Brilliant IVoman. 

Horace Wyncote, enchanted with the footing he 
was so happily put on, felt quite grateful to Flora 
for having so successfully smoothed his path. 

She still farther smoothed his path, and completed 
Mr. Burlington's discomfiture by saying, " We were 
so dull; it was so nice of you to come and see 
us; pray come again as soon as ever you can! " 

And Mrs. Burlington, to whom the young man 
looked with some anxiety, repeated it. " We shall 
always be glad to see you," she said, with a 
delightful smile, " pray come again soon — as soon 
as you can." 

When the door finally closed on the unconscious 
young man, Mr. Burlington intended to say some- 
thing to his offending spouse, but she took the 
initiative and left him without a chance. 

"How could you think we should not like that 
young fellow, Cyril? He is quite charming. In 
this dull place, it is quite delightful to have so 
desirable a neighbour 1 " 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 73 

" I particularly wished you not to become intimate 
with that family. " 

" But he is not the family. And Flora likes 
him; do you not?" she added, turning to her. 

" Immensely. " 

" His visit has certainly done me good. I was 
quite hipped, and so frightfully depressed. It is 
refreshing to have been amused. " 

Mr. Burlington was afraid that, if he gave the 
only answer he could give, there might be a differ- 
ence of opinion between them, and before Flora 
Harrington he could not risk this. 

He retreated, not certain whether he had not 
suffered in the affair, and heartily vexed with every- 
thing and everybody (himself included) for taking 
it so much to heart. 

* Dearest, " said Flora, when Mr. Burlington's 
steps had died away in the distance ; " an inspiration 
has come to me! " 

Mrs. Burlington, feeling the reaction after un- 



74 A Brilliant Woman. 

wonted excitement, said wearily, "I am too tired 
to guess riddles, Flora. Please speak out. " 

" There is a secret — and the Wyncotes know 
it — about Mr. Burlington. " 

" Nonsense ! " 

" There is ! Do you suppose that Mr. Burlington 
would be so wretched, so put out, by your seeing that 
young man unless he had some serious private reason ?" 

" Nonsense ! " 

"That reason you are not to know. Besides 
this, my dear, your husband is jealous." 

" Again I say nonsense ! " 

" Say it if it gives you any pleasure. Your saying 
it does not alter the fact one little bit. I know 
people's faces so very well; there is a secret, and 
he is jealous. I do not pretend he is in love with 
you, but — he is annoyed to find how well you can 
be under other influences, and how witty and bright. 
Men, my dear, are in this country worse than Turks. 
The Turks make their women wear veils, our men 



The Wyncotes of Wyncote Hundred. 75 

like their wives to keep their wit, their gifts, all 
their powers of pleasing for themselves only. Now, 
you poor dear, you look tired out, and I shall run 
off and leave you to rest. You did not mind my 
breaking the ice and bringing in that man, did you?" 

Maria was nothing if not truthful. " To tell you 
the truth, Flora, I ^vish you had not done it, " she 
said, candidly. " I enjoyed it all, and thought it 
fun at the time; but I never feel quite happy when 
I disregard my husband's wishes. " 

"Oh, you poor dear! What we can come to!" 
exclaimed Flora, laughing. "Well, never mind; say 
it was me. 

" But that would annoy him still more. " 

" Well, then, let him be annoyed. " 

Maria was silent. It did not suit Flora to leave 
her in this mood. So she returned to the sofa, and 
said seriously, " You must not mind my saying that 
you make a great mistake in the way you manage 
your husband. " 



76 A Brilliant Woma^i. 

" Manage him ? " 

" Yes ; every woman could, would, and should 
manage her husband, in a nice way of course. You 
show you are a little afraid of him. * 

" Indeed, I do not. " 

" But you do. In this very matter, because he 
has a secret reason for objecting to the presence 
of a delightful young man you are annoyed that he 
was here. I warn you that if you do not assert 
yourself now in the first year of your married life 
you w^ll be in thraldom all your life ! " 

With these oracular words Flora took her de- 
parture, leaving Mrs. Burlington to such repose as 
her perturbed spirit could master. 



CHAPTER VI. 

WHAT WAS THE SECRET? 

It certainly was hard that poor Aunt Anne, who 
at any time would have suffered any pain herself 
rather than stir up violent dissension, should have 
been the innocent cause of creating wide dissension 
between her nephew and his wife. It was so inno- 
cently done ! She was sitting talking to them both — 
Flora being for the time in her own room — and, in 
reviewng certain families and certain impending 
functions looming in the political atmosphere, she 
said, " How curiously lukewarm the Beryls are now ! 
How unUke the deep interest taken by that family 



78 A Brilliant Woman. 

in my day. If the election is lost, they cannot say 
that they have striven to avert defeat." 

Cyril made one of his quiet disclaimers: " I sup- 
pose, as years roll on, we all get more indifferent 
about political success." 

Maria, who w^as pronounced quite well again, 
looked in surprise from one to the other. Was it 
possible that Aunt Anne knew nothing of her indis- 
cretion — of her hit at the girl she considered her 
husband's former love, which had caused such a 
commotion when they had been there, and for which 
she always remembered she had been most unreason- 
ably punished. 

For one moment she was struck by his having 
been reticent about it, even with Aunt Anne. Then 
a worse interpretation suggested itself. Cyril had 
said nothing because Aunt Anne knew the facts, 
and would consider that she (Maria) had been within 
her rights. A flash of indignation made her suddenly 
change colour, and her words came hurrying and 



What was the Secret? 79 

passionately forth : " The Beryls are not to be trusted 
in any way; and is it consistent with your idea of 
what is fair to a wife that they know things and 
connive at arrangements, and that they should be 
in the secret of the husband's love affairs, and his 
wife ignorant of everything ? " 

"Maria!" 

" My dear, I beg you to compose yourself " Poor 
Aunt Anne felt as if the earth was opening under 
her feet. This incoherent speech, uttered as if by 
one possessed, was terrible to her. 

Silence might have been wisdom on the part of 
Mr. Burlington, but, though he could control him- 
self well, he was too full of righteous anger to be 
silent in the face of such a charge. 

"You know nothing; you conjecture everything, " 
he said. 

" Ah ! you think I do not know. Can you deny 
* that you were — still, may be — in love with Marcia 
Dorington ? " 



8o A Brilliant Woman. 

•* I deny nothing, and I refuse to speak upon the 
subject, " he said, hotly ; " and if I had been in love, 
am I the only man of my age who has cared for 
some one before his marriage?" 

"And who cares now; since you arranged she 
was not to meet me." 

" If you only knew the truth, " her husband said, 
sternly, "you would be covered with shame and 
humiliation. You go upon assertions made by Lady 
Rhodes." 

"Then, tell me the truth." 

" You ! Disbelieving, indiscreet ! What have you 
ever done to give me the wish to place a secret 
at your mercy?" 

" Ah ! " she exclaimed, stung by his words, " then 
there is a secret; you acknowledge it. You hear, 
Aunt Anne?" 

She stood up in her excitement and confronted 
the two. 

" O, child ! " said Aunt Anne, miserably, " why 



What was the Secret? 8i 

not trust your husband? This scene is terrible! I 
cannot, cannot bear it ! " 

The poor lady covered her face with her hands 
as if to shut out the flushed and angry figure 
before her. 

" I must speak, and I stand alone ! I have no 
one else to speak to," said Maria, trying, however, 
to calm herself— trying to resume the command 
of herself she had so completely lost. "But I 
appeal to you for justice. I am surrounded by 
mystery; I am not to make friends in one direc- 
tion — no reason vouchsafed. I am to avoid in- 
timacies in another — no reason given. Like a puppet, 
I am to move, walk, stand still, have no convic- 
tions no opinions — to be silent and speak by rule. 
Has my husband bought me? Is it fair that I 
should be so treated ? " 

She paused, breathless, and poor Aunt Anne 
said, almost under her breath, " No ; it is not fair. " 

" You hear, Cyril ; you hear ! " exclaimed his 

VOL. II. 6 



82 A Brilliant Woman. 

wife. " Even your aunt, because she is true and 
can judge, and does judge honestly, between us, 
she does not think you right! Thank you!" she 
said, with her eyes suddenly filling with tears. 
" Thank you ! " 

She swept past them both in a tempest of agita- 
tion, and went to her own room. Cyril looked 
after her with all the astonishment of a man unused 
to violent exhibition of any emotion. Aunt Anne 
was in tears. 

"She is right, Cyril, and you do not understand 
— you cannot expect her to act as if she knew 
everything ; and she knows — nothing ! " 

" If she knew everything, to use your own 
expression. Aunt Anne," said Cyril, with the 
calmness of despair, " she would leave me ! " 

Aunt Anne started in dismay, and gazed at her 
nephew through her tear-clouded eyes as if she 
doubted the evidence of her senses. 

" Yes," said Cyril, in a tone of conviction. " You 



What was the Secret? 83 

do not know her as I do! It has been a cruel 
upbringing if her story is ever to be told her! 
Her pride would be so hurt ... Do you 
suppose that, with her character, all her life spoiled, 
flattered, and surrounded by adulation, she would 
be content to stay here on sufferance! No! She 
would go, and then there would be fresh scandal." 
" Be comforted, " said Aunt Anne, rising, and laying 
her hand affectionately upon his shoulder ; " her 
affection for you ..." 

A bitter laugh — quite the bitterest she had ever 
heard from his lips — grated upon her ears. " Aunt 
Anne, to you I cannot lie! To you I must speak 
the truth ! We were both deceived ! I understand 
now better than I did that we were each told of love 
felt by the other. What weighed with her I can- 
not say. I know money did not tempt her. But 
the deep love she was supposed to have conceived 
for me never existed, and I. . . ." 
"And you? Oh, Cyril!" 



/ 



84 A Brilliant Woman. 

"I love her more now than I ever expected to 
love her. I am not blind to her faults. Therefore, 
according to all theories, I cannot be much in love; 
but when we married I admired her, and . . ." 
Aunt Anne had often wished for an explanation, 
now it had come to her, and, like most things, 
came to her when she would rather not have 
heard it. 

"Her trouble was very great. One thing I do 
want to know, " she said, " do not answer if you 
would rather not. But did you know her story before 
you spoke?" 

She waited breathlessly for his answer. 
"No. It was told to me afterwards. I might 
have gone, perhaps, but it would have been cruel . . . 
Aunt Anne, you now know everything. Never let 
us speak of this again ! Now you see how things 
would be. If Maria thought that my compassion 
had been roused, that pity for her position had 
moved me . . . she would leave me ! She has never 



What was the Secret? 85 

been trained to bear anything. I cannot tell you 
how easy her life has been made for her! It has 
been a false kindness; and you do not know how 
much there is in her nature that is fine! I know, 
for I have been a judge, and not a lover. Now I 
am her lover ! " he added, with whitened lips, " and 
it is too late!" 

" My Cyril ! my boy ! All will come right. I do 
not believe that any good woman could live with 
you and not learn to love you." 

"Ah, Aunt Anne! You see me with motherly 
eyes. I compare myself with others — with Horace 
Wyncote, for instance. I am plain and elderly and 
awkward. God help us both," he added, "for we 
are bound, and one of us feels the fetters already. " 

Aunt Anne was struggling for composure. She 
could not add to his grief, she could not press the 
matter, but she knew that he was wrong in trying 
to keep his wife in ignorance of what she might 
learn from others. 



86 A Brilliant Wo?nan. 

"How does Miss Harrington get on? Does she 
improve on acquaintance?" 

"I myself think her detestable," he said, with 
unthinking frankness ; " she is a type of all I most 
dislike. But I believe that there may be out of 
sight some redeeming qualities, as my wife likes 
her, and, indeed, is fond of her. If there was any- 
thing radically wrong, I believe Maria would be 
the first to object." 

"And she is fixed here for the time." 

" I have no right to put my objections forward. My 
wife has so little society of any other kind. Every- 
thing is formal and conventional — stated visits and no 
real kindness or friendship. It is hard for her." 

" And you think she will not learn anything from 
outsiders — from this girl?" 

He started. He never had taken this view of 
the question. "I think not," he answered thought- 
fully; "young Wyncote knows nothing," 

At that moment Flora's strong untrained and 



What was the Secret? 87 

unmusical voice was heard singing away and evi- 
dently coming nearer. 

Mr. Burlington went out of the room by one door 
as she came in at the other. 

"Dear me," exclaimed Flora, "I hope I have not 
dispersed the company. " She looked with audacious 
laughing eyes at Aunt Anne, who made no answer 
after her first somewhat formal greeting. 

" Molly is looking all right again, " said Flora, 
plumping her stout person down on the arm of the 
sofa and swinging her feet airily to and fro. 

" Yes ; she is looking very well. " 

" I suppose that she will now have some of 
the neighbours in and make up to me for having 
spent three of the dullest weeks on record. " 

" It is possible. " 

" You see I never was meant to be a vegetable, " 
said Flora, " and I want some fun. " 

"Do you? I am afraid that the country at this 
time of the year is not a very lively place. " 



88 A Brilliant Woma?i. 

" There are materials, " said Flora, " but it occurs 
to me that the materials are not made the most of. 
Now tell me in confidence, dear Miss Burlington; 
you can trust me. Why do people give my dearest 
friend the cold shoulder? Has she ever done 
anything wrong ? " 

" Are you speaking in sober earnest ? You are 
asking such a question about a friend you profess 
to love! " 

Aunt Anne's voice trembled a little. 

" Oh ! please don't fence with me, " said Flora, 
coming from her seat on the sofa quite close 
to Aunt Anne. " I am not a fool, I can see 
things for myself. Mr. Burlington is always in a 
fever about his wife's acquaintances ; you are nearly 
as bad. I am moving in a mystery, and I mean 
to find everything out. Now, there's Horace Wyn- 
cote, a nice, good-looking boy — religion immaterial. 
What more natural than to let me have my chance. 
I am sure they are few and far between. Not a 



What was the Secret? 89 

bit of it. If he calls — thunder in the aspect of 
Mr. Burlington — frigidity and no welcome. Why? 
I want to know, and you might as well tell me, " 
said the audacious young w^oman. 

At that moment, a little pale, but quite composed, 
Mrs. Burlington came into the room, and never in 
all her life did Aunt Anne welcome the presence 
of any one more thankfully. 

Flora w^as discomfited. Maria was more absent 
than usual. But between her and Aunt Anne was 
so strong an affection that there was no effort 
needed in each other's society. That great proof 
of intimacy, silence, when there is nothing to say, 
when no attempt at talking has to be made, ren- 
dered it always pleasant for them to be together. 
Flora found the constraint tiresome and was pro- 
voked at having had a confidence so hurriedly put 
an end to. " I should have got it all out of the 
old lady, " she said to herself as she made some 
excuse and left them. 



go A Brilliant Woman. 

And Aunt Anne left soon also. The position 
was hard for her. Her heart was completely won 
by Mrs. Burlington's absolute directness, and, though 
she could not act in direct contradiction to her 
nephew's wishes, she felt in a manner guilty in 
front of his wife. Mysteries were hateful things, 
and all her principles and sense of right were 
arrayed against the position in which her nephew's 
reticence placed her. 



CHAPTER VII. 

AN ADVENTURE AND A SAFETY SKIRT. 

Mr. Burlington had often reason to regret those 
low-breathed words of his aunt's which had escaped 
her so involuntarily during that past scene. His 
wife was colder to him than ever before. He could 
hear her laugh as he drew near the drawing-room, 
and the laugh ceased in his presence. Even her 
smile vanished if he looked at her, and nothing 
tried him more. 

She grew reckless in her talk, and even in her 
actions; she admitted people to the house often in 
the afternoon who formerly felt one yearly invita- 



92 A Brilliant: Woman 

tion an honour ; and when he sarcastically remarked 
upon the friendships she seemed to make, she an- 
swered that any society was better than none, that 
" kind hearts were better than coronets " and that, 
as other people evidently did not care to come to 
see them, she was justified in welcoming those who 
did care to come. 

Flora still remained, and tried him severely. But 
the head and front of her offending was the con- 
stant presence of Horace Wyncote. At unexpected 
times he dropped in to luncheon. He would ride 
over to tea; and remain to dinner. In short, he 
seemed to be always there. 

He also rode a great deal with Mrs. Burlington, 
for though Flora had learned to ride, and a very 
quiet and most inoffensive horse had been provided 
for her portly figure, she was too much of a novice 
not to hold the unfortunate animal so tight, that 
even his long-suffering nature took to fidgetting, 
and, as trotting shook the young lady, and canter- 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 93 

ing fast was beyond her, Maria and Mr. Wyncote 
were generally a good bit ahead, and had as often 
as not to ride back for her. 

When Mr. Burlington one day lost his temper, 
and said something rather sharp about young Wyn- 
cote and his constant presence, his wife looked at 
him in marked surprise. When he made his mean- 
ing a little clearer and his language a little stronger 
she laughed in his face. 

" He amuses me, and in this dull land of ours 
being amused is such a treat." 

" It does not amuse me to find him here at all 
hours of the day. What does he come for ? " 

" You had better ask him, " she answered gravely. 
" Flora and I like him, and I think, " she said, after 
a moment's reflection, " that he likes us. I am quite 
sure he likes me." 

« Really ! How condescending of him ! Most men 
would like all the attention you pay him. Whether 
it is quite wise, quite discreet of you to see so 



g4 A Brilliant Woman. 

much of any young man I leave you to judge." 
" I think it quite wise and discreet to talk to a 
man who does not look bored to death with me 
when I am with him ! " Maria said in her most 
provoking tone ; and with one of those smiles which 
her husband thought heartless now, "I often have 
a curious idea." 

" Might one inquire what that curious idea is ? " 
" Of course you may. One could not say it, I 
suppose, to all husbands — but you and I are quite 
exceptional people. I could not, of course, say it 
if there had ever been any pretence of love between 
us ! But, as we have never been in love — you and 
I, I can say it, and you will not misunderstand me. 
Well, I think it such a pity that he and I have 
met too late!" 

" What do you mean ? " 

" What I say. If we had met before you had 
married me, I think we should have been despe- 
rately in love with each other! I can quite answer 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 95 

for myself. When I think of that, of course I feel 
sorry!" 

" You try me too far, " said her husband, who 
was almost too angry for words. 

" Do I ? You see that is what I see every day 
and what I regret. I am a trial. Now, if I had 
met the other man— the right man, I might have 
been the other thing to him. Now, I suppose, it 
will be Flora, and I am not quite sure that Flora 
is the right woman for him." 

"Do you mean to try to make me believe that 
Horace Wyncote, who is a gentleman, would ever 
care for an underbred girl like your friend?" 

" One never knows. Now, there could not well be 
two people more different than we are. You are 
middle-aged, and grave and serious. You take life 
seriously, much too seriously, let me tell you; and 
you are not amusing. You are even (I am speaking 
openly) dull. You were not in love with me, and 
I was not in love with you. Nothing was funnier 



g6 A Brilltant Woman. 

than your marrying me, and I suppose that it was 
the very last thing anyone expected you to do. 
Yet you did it all the same." 

A look in her husband's face checked her for a 
moment. What if he gave her the key, followed 
Aunt Anne's advice, and explained everything ? This 
rushed through his mind, and vanished again. He 
could turn the tables on her, but would it be 
generous to do it now? The sense of his own power 
made him gentle, and drove away the irritation her 
speech had caused. How bitterly she would regret 
that speech if she came to know ! 

"Maria," he said, quietly, "I am, as you say, 
middle-aged, grave, and serious. Putting aside all 
the wild nonsense you have been speaking, as I 
have by rights experience and you have not, why 
will you not profit by it ? Have you no confidence 
in my judgment? I know the world, and you do 
not; a young — I may add, a very handsome — wo- 
man, cannot make an intimate friend of a young 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 97 

man who is neither kith nor kin to her without 
laying herself open to remark. And the Wyncote 
name is " 

" That will do, " said his wife coldly. " Always 
the same thing. If I had never met Horace I 
might have thought of him as of some one beyond the 
pale. How you tried to mislead me about him. 
When we met, and I saw how charming he was, I 
could hardly reconcile your prejudice against him 
with that essence of truth you pride yourself upon. 
You know nothing about him; yet you condemn 
him ! I know him ; but console yourself, for he 
does like Flora — poor Flora ! — and I shall be very 
very glad if the liking turns to love. Oh ! to have 
one friend near me to whom I can turn!" and, 
to the astonishment and dismay of her husband, 
Maria broke down, and cried in a strong tempes- 
tuous way, as if her very heart would break. 

He went to her side agitated and distressed ; but 
when she saw him near, she drew aside, and went 

VOL. II. 7 



98 A Brilliant Woman. 

off to her room, leaving him once more to wonder 
over the various extraordinary and inexplicable 
ways of womankind. How he had longed to con- 
sole her, to tell her that she was wrong to doubt 
his love ! Only the bitter consciousness of some 
truth lying underneath her statement, and the fear 
of a repulse, kept him helpless. 

If this was her thought — if she had now seen one 
she thought might have made her happy, the dan- 
ger for her was all the greater. What a tangle 
they were in ! and what did the future hold for them 
both ! 

He was dull, she had said. Was it so? He 
must seem dull by her brilliancy. He knew that 
in all she said or did, there was a certain fascination 
for him which daily became more patent to him. 

He thought of his position with a certain self 
pity, in which lay a pathetic and a comic side. If 
he had loved her and tried to win her, when other 
men might also have tried, how many fears he would 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 99 

have had ? All had been made easy to him, and he 
had found hunself engaged to her without excitement 
or triumph. She was his wife, and he had fallen 
in love with her, and yet he acknowledged that 
now she was more difficult to win, and that his 
task seemed hopeless. 

Never for a second did he wrong her by suppos- 
ing that Horace Wyncote or any one else would 
ever make her swerve from right. But her very 
strength might be her weakness. Consciousness of 
her own integrity might lead her into compromising 
situations; and then he thought to himself bitterly 
that she had no safeguard as far as affection for 
himself went. 

And If Horace Wyncote willingly or unwillingly 
became more to her than she now thought possible ! 
Such things were. What a lifetime of misery for 
her and for him ! The struggle between what was 
and what might have been seemed terrible to him 
As to Flora Harrington, he never for one second 



loo A Brilliant Woman, 

thought of her as likely to win Horace Wyncote's 
regard. He dismissed the idea without for a moment 
believing in its possibility. Then what lay before 
him? To try to win his wife. To bear with her 
pettishness, her anger, her caprices — to try to under- 
stand her. And if ever a man felt his deep ignorance 
of the complex nature of the feminine mind it was 
poor Mr. Burlington. In the meantime Maria was 
suffering from the reaction that invariably follows 
upon undue excitement. 

She had a very real headache, and was lying prone 
on her sofa asking herself rather miserably where 
all was to end. A feeling of anger and resentment 
blinded her altogether, and those words about Flora 
had been cruelly harsh. She felt them 'so harsh 
that when that buxom young person arrived to see 
what was wrong, she was received with demonstra- 
tive affection. "Poor Flora!" she sighed, "both 
you and I are misunderstood. But it does not 
matter, dear, I will always remain your friend. " 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. loi 

" You are a darling, " said Flora ; " but who mis- 
understands me ? " 

" Does it matter ? Tell me of something else. 
Oh, Flora! let me be quiet, and only hear of very- 
pleasant things; I am so miserable!" 

" Shall I tell you of my adventure this afternoon ? " 
began Flora, in a cooing voice, dabbing Maria's 
head with eau de Cologne in a very perfunctory 
and inexperienced fashion, and sending uncomfort- 
able splashes trickling down her face. 

Maria drew her head away with a little gesture 
of impatience. "That is enough. Yes; tell me of 
your adventure. Imagine any adventure here ! " 
said poor Maria in a very dreary voice. 

" I met Mr. Wyncote, and, knowing that he was 
better out of the way while you were being scolded 
— Oh, you need not wince; I know all about it 
— I told him if he liked to ride with me there was 
one thing you wanted, and begged him to get for 
you." 



I02 A Brilliant Woman. 

"Flora! you did not, you could not say such a 
thing — tell a direct story ! " 

" I did. You see, one has at times to have very 
elastic principles," said Flora, with much compla- 
cency. "I told him of a pecuHar moss and of red 
toadstools. Both grow in the long wood." 
" His own wood, and miles from here. " 
" Yes, miles, as I know to my cost. Well, he 
seemed charmed ; gave me to understand that pick- 
ing toadstools was what he came into the world 
for, and picking them in my company. You can 
imagine the rest. You see, dear, " continued Flora, 
with her usual formula, " I do not think I am wholly 
obnoxious to mankind in general, and to that man 
in particular. There are exceptions. However, this 
man and I got on very well indeed. He was very 
nice ; particularly so. And he said charming things. " 
She laughed in a very conscious way. 

" Oh, Flora, did he say anything very particular? " 
exclaimed Mrs. Burlington, hoping, and yet not 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 103 

quite allowing the possibility to herself. Her mind 
seemed confused, and in a state of chaos, and through 
all Flora's words that terrible beating of the tem- 
ples went on and on. 

" He didn't propose, if your roundabout phrase 
means that, " said Flora : " fancy my allowing any 
man to propose all in a hurry like that. No," 
Flora continued, with an assumption of dignity that 
sat oddly upon her. "That is not my line." 

" Do go on, " said Mrs. Burlington, her head 
throbbing more as her excitement subsided. 

"Well, we got there, and there were the mush- 
rooms. I quite forgot to say, dear, that, knowing 
you would not mind, I had borrowed your new 
habit — that is to say, the safety skirt, the body 
won't fit, worse luck! Well, my dear Molly, I 
declined to get down because I felt quite sure if I 
once got down I should never get up again. 
Mr. Wyncote got down, and, as there was no 
tree near small enough to hook his bridle to (you 



I04 A Brillimit Woman. 

know the trees all run up there ridiculous lengths 
before they have branches), he said, as if I was 
quite up to it, would I hold his horse. I said 
*Yes,' and if that horrible creature would only- 
have stood still I should have been all right. But 
it did everything a horse could do short of eating 
me up. Of course, I could not hold the bridle, and 
away it went. The moment it went off, my horse 
kicked up and made a tremendous commotion. Mr. 
Wyncote called out 'Sit still,' or ' Sit tight,' or 
something equally ridiculous, as if I should not have 
been delighted to do so if I could ! Well, of course, 
I was thrown off, just on a thick bed of moss, and 
away scampered my horse. I ask you whether it 
was not an adventure." 

"My dear Flora, I am glad you were not hurt." 
" But you don't understand. There was I on the 
ground, and my safety skirt (or, rather, yours) firmly 
sticking to the saddle." 

" Poor Flora ! How dreadful ! What did you do ? " 



An Adventure and a Safety Skirt. 105 

" Oh, I shut my eyes tight not to see myself; 
Mr. Wyncote caught the horses somehow, tied them 
up somehow, and came back to me, bringing that 
skirt." 

" And you revived ? " 

" Certainly not ; it was not time. Poor man, he 
did not know the geography of the thing, and he 
tried it upside down, and inside out, and finally 
spread it over me; and then I opened my eyes, 
because I was shaking with laughter, and could 
not keep it in much longer. I finally got into it 
when he went to get the horses. I was in a funk 
the whole way home, and got him to hold a rein, 
and he landed me at West Lodge gate. I think 
he was upset, had a fright, for he was silent all 
the time. 

" Perhaps he was making up his mind to speak 
to you, Flora." 

"Perhaps. Oh, by-the-bye, he is coming to tea 
to-morrow to bring your moss and things over." 



io6 A Brilliant Woman. 

"All right," said Mrs. Burlington; but she thought 
that after the scene she had had with her husband 
it was all wrong. It looked like direct antagonism, 
and she was amazed. But how could she help it? 



CHAPTER VIII. 

" HOW CAN WE SET THINGS RIGHT ? " 

Sir Henry Beryl felt the breach between himself 
and Cyril Burlington very much. He clung to old 
family friendships and family traditions more than 
most men; and when his first heat and indignation 
were over regret became still stronger. He blamed 
Cyril for having put a secret affecting his son at 
the mercy of his wife, considering that, however 
frank a man might choose to be with his wife about 
his own past, he might have kept so delicate a 
matter regarding a friend sacredly to himself; or, 
at any rate, have made her understand that she 



io8 A Brilliant: Womon^ 

was to hold her tongue about it. That Cyril had 
never made this confidence at all, he of course did 
not know. Cyril wrote no justification; there he 
was right, for how could such malicious words be 
justified? That the words capable of two interpre- 
tations were uttered ignorantly by Mrs. Burlington, 
from a foolish wish to annoy the Duchess for a 
moment, by hitting her friend, neither man knew. 
Maria was not the only woman who, finding no 
weak spot in the armour worn by another woman, 
wounds her through a friend who is vulnerable, by 
attacking her or running her down. It was Marcia 
Dorington who alone did Cyril justice. She always 
remembered with gratitude the kindness and unsel- 
fishness that had prompted Mr. Burlington to risk 
offending her, to run the chance of being mis- 
understood, in order to tell her what his instinct 
taught him she knew nothing about. She knew — 
as what woman does not? — that Mr. Burlington 
was as much in love with her as a man of his 



'^ How can we set Things right?" 109 

nature could be without encouragement, and that 
had she been able honestly to give him encoura- 
gement he would have tried to win her. When 
the Duchess, therefore, said something distinctly 
disparaging about him, Marcia had defended him, 
and much surprised the Duchess by doing so. 

"You expect a man to have secrets from his 
wife?" 

" His own secrets, perhaps other people's, after 
his marriage; but before ....No, Marcia. What 
a frightful confusion society would be in if men 
told their wives all about their friends' affairs! 
A man, I suppose, is more reticent when an inquisi- 
tive woman is tacked on to him, and his friends 
are or should be also reticent." 

* I myself think that Mr. Burlington is what you 
call reticent,'* said Marcia, flushing a little, as the 
subject was always one of pain and humiliation 
to her. 

" Quite impossible, dearest Marcia. How^ could his 



no A Brilliant Woman. 

wife otherwise know anything about you or your 
afFairs?" 

" It may not have been meant to hit me or my 
affairs?" 

" You were not there : so you cannot know. 
She was quite in a small passion, and very much 
excited; her eyes flashed. She was angry; she 
wanted to annoy everyone all round." 

" It makes me unhappy to think that it has divided 
Mr. Burlington from the Beryls and you, " said Mar- 
cia, earnestly. " I wish you would put it all right. " 

"How can I? Things said cannot be unsaid; 
and what can I do; can I interfere?" 

"You were present. You can put my views 
before Sir Henry. He is kind and just, and I should 
be so much happier. You do not know how much 
I feel for Cyril Burlington. He has done a gener- 
ous thing, and it seems to me that for one bit of 
unkindness he is made to suffer too much." 

" I cannot forgive his marrying that sort of wo- 



"" How can we set Things right?'' m 

man. My dear, she does not care one little bit 
for him!" 

"Poor Cyril!" 

"And though we know women to be the r/'.ost 
contradictory creatures in the world, they generally, 
when they are free, marry to please themselves. 
Cyril Burlington has not married to please himself 
He is not in love; he watches his wife; he is so 
evidently afraid of her saying or doing something 
indiscreet. You should see them together, my dear 
Marcia. " 

"She is very handsome?" 

" Yes, very handsome, and has all sorts of per- 
sonal attractions, but though she is handsome, and 
brilliant — even dazzling — one feels that Cyril would 
have been happier with less brilliancy and more 
repose. You have no idea how fatiguing she is." 

" Perhaps in private life she may be less dazzling. " 

" Then she must be dull. No, my dear Marcia ; 
Mrs. Burlington is a woman who must be first in 



112 A Brilliant Woman, 

all society, and attract most attention; she resents 
taking a second place. This is, you see, the worst 
of being brilliant." 

" You certainly have learned her by heart quickly 
enough. " 

"I pride myself on my insight into character.** 
said the Duchess, gaily. "I am seldom wrong." 

" Seldom, perhaps ; but you are not always right, ^ 
said Marcia, laughing. " However, the question 
now is this : How can we set things right ? " 

This conversation was one of many. Marcia's 
gratitude, contrary of that of many people, took an 
active and not a passive form. She was sincerely 
unhappy for many reasons. This unfortunate episode 
had deprived young Mr. Beryl of a friendship and 
companionship which she knew was the one com- 
fort of his saddened life. And she was the inno- 
cent cause; she had suffered very cruelly, but 
things might have been worse; she might have 
said things difficult to unsay, and she in her heart 



*^ How can we set Things right ?^' 113 

acknowledged that her peril had been great, and 
that Cyril's hand had been the means of saving her. 
Things often tend in one direction in a manner 
somewhat mysterious to those who do not remember 
that, after all, one influence dominates many peopls 
at the same moment. 

Sir Henry Beryl, while seeing no way out of 
the complication, was not only as beforesaid vexed 
because of the loss of a friendship they all valued, 
but because the political cause at that juncture was 
just in need of such a man as Cyril Burlington. 
Perhaps the rarest character in the world certainly 
the easiest political character — is that of a man 
absolutely indifferent to popularity. 

The applause of his fellow creatures is sweet to 

so many men, added to which the position of man}^ 

men depends in a great measure on the popularity 

they possess. Cyril Burlington was very independent 

and it was reckoned a fault that he cared too little 

what other people thought or said of him. 
VOL. II. , 8 



114 A Brilliant IVoman. 

It is a fault carried to excess, as it gives a blunt- 
ness of manner often, and an impression of not 
caring about vexing or wounding other people's 
susceptible feelings ; and, like some virtues, becomes 
hateful especially to those who are conscious of an 
undue anxiety for popularity. It faces them in the 
light of a perpetual rebuke. But the character has 
its value, and there is no more powerful influence 
on the popular mind than one who has never been 
stirred an inch in any direction by self-interest. 
Altogether Sir Henry weighed in his mind a good 
deal how and where and when the unpleasant epi- 
sode could be smoothed over; and each time he 
came to the same conclusion. Nothing could be 
done. It was Marcia herself who at length cut the 
Gordian knot, after much reflection and many an- 
xious thoughts. 

To interfere in a delicate matter requires tact and 
skill, and, above all, absolute straightforwardness; 
and in this instance it required help, and Marcia's 



'^ How cat? 7ve set Things right f^ 115 

difficulty was, where she could get help ! Who was 
there that was sufficiently interested in her wishes 
to be of use, and who would help without requiring- 
explanations impossible to give. She scanned the 
horizon of her acquaintances, and invariably came 
back to the same idea. The Duchess, and the Duch- 
ess alone, could do it, and she was prejudiced; 
and if she could persuade her, would the Duke allow 
her to act? He was ver}^ cordial, very kind, but 
he was particular. Marcia felt so sure of the Duchess 
that she made up her mind that she Avould first get 
the Duke upon her side, and then speak to his wife. 
An opportunity is seldom sought in vain, and one 
day Marcia saw her opportunity and seized upon it 
at once. 

The Duchess had a cold, and wanted to send a 
sympathetic present to a tenant's wife, living about 
five miles off. The Duke had announced an inten- 
tion of going to see a new young plantation at that 
very place, and was to have driven his wife over. 



ii6 A Brilliant Woman. 

But, her Grace being indisposed, she asked Mar- 
cia to take her place, and, as Marcia was devoted 
to riding, it ended in the horses being ordered, and 
the two started early in the afternoon — the groom, 
naturally, at a more discreet distance than he could 
well be in the phaeton. 

" I am very glad to have your society all to myself 
to-day," Marcia said brightly, after a preliminary 
canter had given the horses that exercise necessary 
to ensure quietness and the opportunity for con- 
versation. 

" Very flattering, " he answered, laughing. " What 
do you want me to do or not to do ? " 

" I want the Duchess to take me over to call 
upon the Burlingtons. I wish to make Mrs. Bur- 
lington's acquaintance. " 

"Humph," said his Grace. 

"'Humph' is not exactly a satisfactory reply, I 
may remark." 

" It is a tremendous distance. It is so far off we 



"" How can we set Things rights 117 

are not at all called upon to pay a visit to the 
Burlingtons. " 

"It is a long way. But not too far if you can 
do a kindness. Please don't say 'humph' again. 
You were just going to do so ! " 

"What is your reason. Why do you want to go P^" 
and the Duke looked round at his companion with 
some curiosity. 

" Some time ago Cyril Burlington did me a great 
service, for which I shall always feel grateful. Very 
innocently as you will believe I have caused a 
breach between him and his friends — friends who 
value him much — and friends he values. He showed 
the moral courage which is more difficult to men 
than ph3'^sical courage. I have a regard for him, 
and, owing him much, it is impossible for me to sit 
still with folded hands, and do nothing! " 

" I see. " The Duke had admired Mrs. Burlington, 
and having many important matters to think of, 
had forgotten her misdemeanour, or rather remembered 



ii8 A Brilliant Woman. 

she had said something stupid, and that his wife 
objected to her in consequence. 

"There is the Duchess yonder, Marcia." 

" Yes ; there is the Duchess. But if you will be 
on my side she will not stand out against my wish. 
Do you think she will ? " 

" She will act kindly ; you know that, " said his 
Grace loyally. "But if she thinks it against your 
interest?" 

" Will you help me, Duke ? I am not afraid if 
you will really help me," said Marcia very con- 
fidently. 

"Oh, I will help you," he answered. They again 
cantered on, and when they pulled up again he said : 
** Mrs. Burhngton looks to me like a woman who 
might be a very good sort if she knew it ; and she 
makes enemies, because she gives no other woman 
a chance. She amused me, and she's very good- 
looking, but somehow, she and her husband don't 
pull together, and she shows it too much. Burling- 



*" How can we set Things right f^ 119 

ton is such a good fellow that I really wish some- 
thing could be done." 

" It was a curious marriage, " said Marcia. " I 
should like him to be happy, and he looks unhappy. " 

"He was too much in a woman's hands all his 
life. Well, ^larcia, it's a bargain. Shall I propose 
it to the Duchess, or will you do it ?" 

"I shall be very glad if you will do it," said 
Marcia. 

" All right, I will, " he said, cordially. 

And Marcia echoed the same words to herself. 
She was one who could not rest when action was 
necessary, and who relied for success on the purity 
of her actions. 

She hoped much from the coming visit. At any 
rate, Cyril Burlington would understand that she 
had not forgotten, and that she was not ungrateful. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE DUCHESS PAYS A VISIT. 

Dinner was over, the servants had disappeared, 
and the Duchess, with immense satisfaction, was 
showing off a new accomplishment which she had 
taught her dog — a dog vahiable from its grotesque 
ugliness and a strictly original way of moving. 

Marcia was wrapped in reflections of a pleasant 
kind, and gave a rather half-hearted attention to 
the eager and admiring exclamations of her friend. 

"Look, Marcia! isn't he too clever? I put this 
raisin on his forehead, and another on his nose ; 
and he tosses his head when I raise one finger, 



The Duchess pays a Visit. \2\ 

and catches both — at least, he caught them both 
once. Of course it requires practice. But he does 
it beautifully." 

"He ought to have compensating qualities," said 
Marcia, laughing, "to make up for his wonderful 
want of beauty." 

"He is very ugly," said the Duke, "let us hope 
he is clever ; but I do not believe he will ever be 
a patch on Cyril Burlington's dog. That dog of 
his does such extraordinary things." 

" What sort of things ?" asked the Duchess very 
eagerly. 

" He lies down with a handkerchief over his face, 
picking it off when he is told, and sits up holding 
it in his hands." 

"How wonderful!" said the Duchess, after a 
pause. "I wonder how he taught him to do that?" 

"Better ask him," said the Duke, quietly. 

" But, my dear ..." And the Duchess made all 
sorts of telegraphic signs to him, meaning to imply 



122 A Brilliant Woiian. 

that she could explain nothing in Marcia's presence, 
and that there was something to explain. 

"I want you to go, and call there," said the 
Duke. " It is rather far, but I think it would be 
a kindness." 

" But Marcia . . . you would .... I should have 
to go alone, and I do so hate a long drive by myself. " 

" I hoped the Duke would ask you, " said Marcia. 
" I particularly want to go, and I knew if he saw 
it as I see it, and asked you to go, you would go." 

•* I will certainly go ; but you are very forgiving, " 
she said. "Mrs. Burlington said quite rude things 
about you ; or, at any rate, was not nice in any 
way. " 

" Dear, I am convinced that she misunderstood 
things, and that in her turn she is being misunder- 
stood. I want to set things right for them." 

" Let us go, then. Now, if we want to do it 
quite comfortably, we had better write beforehand. 
It is a long way to go to find them out, and that 



The Duchess pays a Visit. 123 

would not suit your purpose. Besides," added her 
Grace, very earnestly, " there is the dog. I do want 
to see that dog!" 

Cyril was astonished when his wife showed him 
the note she had received from the Duchess. It 
was, he thought, most kindly meant — and he saw 
the kindness in its right light. 

"Ask them to lunch; it is such a long way." 

It may be noted that the Duchess, in the first 
place, taking for granted that every lady knew that 
the Duke was too busy to drive about with her, 
did not say he was not included in " we, " and was 
so accustomed to have Marcia with her that she did 
not specify her. 

Mrs. Burlington did ask the Duchess to luncheon, 
and of course included the Duke in her invitation 
under the "you," which corresponded with the 
Duchess's " we. " Thus it happened that her invitation 
was accepted and the drive undertaken without 
Marcia's name coming to the front at all. 



124 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

When they arrived Marcia said to her friend, 
" Please do not name mc, dear. I will introduce 
myself by-and-by." 

Maria was very much struck by the distinguished 
figure and fine face of the Duchess's companion. 
From the evident intimacy existing between the two 
ladies, she supposed that they were relations. Marcia 
never for one moment occurred to her. It may be 
said that never did Mrs. Burlington look better. 
Her recent illness had not impaired her beauty, and 
she was pleased by the long drive undertaken by 
the Duchess, which she thought showed friendliness. 
Altogether she was at her best. The Duchess, 
naturally, was so full of Mr. Burlington's dog that 
she left Marcia to Mrs. Burlington, and the two 
got on well together. It was after luncheon when 
in the sitting-room that Marcia disclosed herself. 
She said, looking at a rather fine picture of Mrs. 
Burlington, "Your husband once did me a great 
service, Mrs. Burlington — a service I shall always 



The Duchess fays a Visit. 125 

feel grateful for. Has he ever spoken to you about 
me? I am Marcia Dorington." 

Mrs. Burlington lost her presence of mind. She 
flushed a vivid red, and said, in an odd, constrained 
voice, " He never spoke of doing you a service. 
He has never spoken about you at all." 

"Not at all?" 

" Never beyond perhaps naming you with others. 
It seems to me, Miss Dorington, that it would be 
very extraordinary of a husband to speak to his 
wife for my husband to speak about you to me!" 

"Why?" and Marcia's wonderful eyes were fixed 
with no feigned expression of astonishment upon 
Mrs. Burlington's face. 

"Because," said Maria, hotly, "he cared for you. 
Even now..." She stopped, but she had said 
enough. 

Then Marcia understood. Before more words 
passed Mrs. Burlington said, " I have often wondered 
why you . . . . " 



126 A Brilliant Woman. 

" Why I did not care for, or, plainly, why I 
did not love your husband ?" She added, in a low 
tone, " There was someone else, and the service — 
the great service your husband rendered me — was 
in connection with that other person. He saved me 
much ! O ! Mrs. Burlington, your husband is very 
noble, very good, and he never told you; he 
kept my secret and my counsel. How can I thank 
him!" 

"I could not understand. I thought you had 
loved him — of course, before he married ; and it 
has made me unhappy," Maria said, simply. 

" Now you know, and you know also how loyal 
he has been ! Dear Mrs. Burlington, I hope you 
will come to like me, that we may grow to be 
friends," said poor Marcia, who had believed no- 
thing against Cyril, and who yet felt grateful to his 
wife, for proving her right, and confirming her 
belief in his honour. She held out her hand, and 
]\lrs. Burlington took it graciously enough. In the 



The Duchess pays a Visit. 127 

face of this friendliness she could not say what was 
really in her heart — "He ought to have told me; 
I am his wife." 

"Then we are friends," said Marcia, and as she 
spoke she smiled, and Mrs. Burlington brightened 
under the influence of that smile, and Marcia hoped 
that she had conquered her antagonism. Flora, 
who had been much subdued at luncheon, and a 
little less subdued afterwards, was overjoyed to see 
the two friends go away; but Mrs. Burlington was 
not in the humour to abuse anybody, least of all 
the woman who had gone out of her way to come 
to remove an erroneous impression ; and she soon 
left Flora to her own devices. 

The Duchess and her friend drove home together 
in silence. Marcia was glad to be left to think. 
It is invariably a surprise to a woman who is 
conscious of a man's admiration for her, and even 
of so much liking as may turn to love (expressed 
or unexpressed), to see his second choice the exact 



128 A Brilliant Woman. 

opposite of herself. Between husband and wife 
there was evidently not even cordial sympathy. 
What had weighed with him ? If he had not been 
in love, why had he married Miss Kingson ? She 
could understand an orphan, dependent, and holding 
a very insecure position, being glad to have an 
assured position and a husband who was sans p cur 
el sans rcproche. But Cyril ? How could it be 
accounted for ? 

She knew his character thoroughly, and it puzzled 
her because at his age a choice is generally so 
carefully made. It is your young man who falls 
in love, and has that fever so badly that he sees 
everything through its magic glasses. She was 
sorry, for she liked him so much, and he was a 
noble-hearted man who wanted affection, who 
appreciated repose more than brilliancy, and who 
craved for domestic quiet and a real affection. It 
seemed hard that he should have been debarred 
from these things. 



The Duchess pays a Visit. 129 

When they reached home the problem in Marcia's 
mind was: How could she clear Cyril in the eyes 
of the Beryls without opening up too w^idely again 
her ow^n story? That she had been an object of 
jealousy seemed to lower her; she must think it all out. 

When Cyril was alone with his wife, she looked 
up in the sudden way he had learned to know by 
this time portended some new departure, and said 
abruptly, 

" If you were more frank with me, Cyril, I should 
not make so many mistakes. " 

Cyril looked at her in some surprise. " This is 
grave, " he said, smiling a little. 

The smile vexed her. It was always a vexation 
to her that her husband never sympathised with her 
moods. And she forgot that her moods were variable 
as any barometer in changeable weather, and very 
difficult to follow. 

" At Sir Henry Beryl's I made a mistake. It was 

not my fault, as I did not know anything. Miss 
VOL. II. 9 



I30 A Brilliant Woman. 

Dorington explained to me to-day. wShe told me 
that you had done her a service. I like her, she 
did not wish me to misunderstand you. " 

Cyril was grave enough now. " Will you let me know 
about the misunderstanding, and what she explained. " 

This was a little difficult; and his wife felt as 
many people feel when they rush into a fray un- 
prepared to bear the brunt of it. She almost wished 
she had left things alone. 

" Miss Dorington said that it was not you, it 
was some one else, that she cared for. " 

" I am afraid I cannot follow this very lucid ex- 
planation, " said Cyril, who was really rather anxious 
to know what Marcia had said. 

Maria coloured deeply, and her answer was given 
in a lower tone, and with a good deal of hesitation : 
" I thought you had loved each other, and were for 
some reason parted ; and I wanted people — I wanted 
the Duchess to know that I was not blind. As 
you loved Miss Dorington, the Beryls naturally 



The Duchess pays a Visit. 131 

could not ask her to meet your wife. This is what 
I thought when I offended them all. " 

" That was it, was it ? " her husband answered, 
looking at her a little curiously. "And you cared?" 

She gave no answer, but her colour varied. He 
would not press her for an answer, and went on 
after a momentar^^ pause. " And then what more 
did she say?" 

"She said you were good, and had done her a 
great service, that you had done someone she cared 
for a great servdce, or words to that effect. At any 
rate, it was not to avoid you. " 

"I see," said Mr. Burlington. 

Yes; he saw what this meant. He had quite 
misunderstood his wife, and the speech that rang 
so clearly, and so painfully through the Beryl's 
drawing-room, and had destroyed in a second of 
time the friendship of years, had been prompted 
by jealousy; and was absolutely innocent of the 
meaning so naturally put upon it. 



132 A Brilliant Woman. 

It was bitter to feel that even now explanation 
was impossible. 

How could he rake up all that story after so long 
a time? Would it not be giving fresh importance 
to what he hoped time would obliterate or at least 
soften. Then the injustice regarding his wife struck 
him. It was a wrong towards her to leave anyone 
under the belief that she was capable of wilfully 
touching upon so delicate a subject. Wherever he 
looked he appeared to see fresh complications, and 
disentanglement seemed quite hopeless. So momen- 
tary an outburst, and so many unfortunate conse- 
quences! Thoughts such as these flashed through 
his mind, and kept him once more silent. ■ 

His wife stood up suddenly. " I did not answer 
your question, " she said, looking quite straight 
into his face. " I did care, " And she went away 
quickly, leaving him perplexed and surprised, but 
with a warmer glow at his heart, which had so 
long now been chilled by her open indifference. 



The Duchess pays a Visit 133 

The visit of the Duchess had also consequences, 
though of a different kind. People suddenly remem- 
bered that they had not called on the Burlingtons 
for a long time, and Maria had many visitors. For 
in certain societies people are very like sheep, not 
only in the way they follow a beaten track, but 
in the manner in which they hold their heads 
and faces upwards when the weather is fine, and 
there are no clouds about; or turn their backs to 
the storm and go aw^ay from it. All this time 
Horace Wyncote was a frequent visitor. Having 
proved to be so wrong in one thing regarding his 
wife, Mr. Burlington could not bear saying more 
to her about these visits. But he did not believe 
that Flora was the attraction. 

His position was difficult, because he had established 
indifference and had accepted it from his wife. 
There was no intimacy, and they saw little of each 
other. Outwardly, all was harmonious. Indeed, 
there were fewer ruffles on the domestic surface 



134 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

than is usually the case where confidence in each 
other's affection leads to very open home-truths 
sometimes, and forcible differences of opinion. To 
recede from this position was extremely difficult, 
and Mrs. Burlington found it impossible. 

It was just then that Mrs. Kingson wrote to 
propose herself for a visit of some days. Her hus- 
band, who was going to see a model agricultural 
farm in a county farther north, would pick her up 
on his way home and stay for a couple of days. 
Maria had a great regard for her aunt, who 
had always made much of her, but she was a 
little sorry that she was coming just now. 

It was inexpressibly annoying to her that a very 
acute observer should be able to see the position 
of things as Mrs. Kingson would see them. And 
there was also Flora. But there was no help for it. 
The Kingsons had often been asked, and this was 
their first visit. 

Maria remembered that there was also Horace 



The Duchess pays a Visit. 135 

Wyncote, who so unaccountably delayed proposing 
to Flora. And she was beginning to dislike his 
visits. It seemed to her that he made a point of 
always coming when her husband was out. Why 
should he? It put her too much in the position of 
receiving into the intimacy of her homelife a man 
whom her husband would not make a companion 
of and did not approve of. 

It was true her husband was not very cordial. 
Perhaps when the Kingsons were there Wyncote 
would not come quite as often, and Flora must 
bear the loss of his society as best she could. Per- 
haps, also, the arrival of her uncle and aunt would 
cause Flora to move. She hated herself for the 
thought; but, when honestly thinking over every- 
thing, [Mrs. Burlington acknowledged to herself that 
the long visit of that young lady had not been an 
unmixed joy, or given her entire satisfaction; she 
would not regret her departure nearly as much as 
she would have done a few weeks ago. 



CHAPTER X. 

AN ARRIVAL AND A DISAPPOINTMENT. 

The day Mrs. Kingson was expected, Mrs. Burling- 
ton and Flora had something as nearly approaching 
to a quarrel as could be. Mrs. Burlington, able to 
move about once more, and quite well again, had 
resumed her active habits, and had made some 
unpleasant discoveries. She was passionately fond 
of flowers, and really understood them. There were 
in particular two that she was specially fond of, 
and that she took personally real trouble to have 
in good succession — violets and lilies-of-the- valley ; 
and she had arranged to have these fragrant blooms 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 137 

almost all the year round. There were hotbeds full 
of the pale double violets, pots of giant Czar, and 
many hundred pots of lilies-of-the-valley. 

She was quite unrestricted as to expense, Mr. 
Burlington being glad to provide funds in so innocent 
a direction, and to give her pleasure. That morning 
she had discovered, to her extreme annoyance, that 
every violet had been picked so ruthlessly as to 
strew the ground with dying buds and young shoots. 
The lilies-of-the-valley were all plucked also. Only 
flowers wanting another fortnight to come to perfec- 
tion stared her in the face. Mrs. Burlington looked 
at them blankly, and saw Malcolm's face, which 
betrayed nothing. The smile with which he used 
to greet her was nowhere visible. 

" Where are the. violets ? And why are there no 
lilies in bloom?" 

"You must just ask yon missy," said Malcolm. 

"Miss Harrington?" 

* I don't ken her name, but she'd ruin any garden, 



138 A Brilliant Woman. 

and I am just to give it up. I'm fair driven daft 
with her and her ways! " 

"She promised me not to touch the hothouse 
flowers; to ask you for all she wanted. I cannot 
understand it ! " 

"There's a good deal you will not understand 
about that young missy, " said Malcolm, very shortly, 
and with an angry laugh. 

" But why let her rob the hotbeds in this way ? " 

"She says hotbeds are not hothouses; and when 
she said you wanted them what could I say?" 

" There has been some mistake, " said Mrs. Burling- 
ton, trying to be loyal to her friend. 

"There's been more than one, I'm thinking,* 
answered the old Scot, cynically. " Na, na, Mistress 
Burlington. I misdoubted the young leddy all along. 
No one with any scrap of a conscience would misuse 
flowers as she does. I'm thinking you can have a 
few violets if you'll come with me." 

He led the way through the garden gates to the 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 139 

outer part, where, carefully concealed under a big" 
cabbage leaf, lay a big bunch of violets. 

Mrs. Burlington took them, and went straight to 
find Flora. She was very indignant. Had the girl 
always been like this, selfish, thoughtless, ill-bred, 
or was it that her own sense of right had grown 
stronger and her present surroundings had raised 
her standard? 

** Flora, what possessed you to destroy my violets ! " 
she exclaimed, as they met at the front door. 

" Destroy your violets ! I have destroyed no violets ; 
I have only picked them." 

"You have ruined the violet beds. Besides, I 
never gave you leave to take all my flowers; and 
there are the lilies-of-the- valley, also, all gone." 

* I never supposed you to be so selfish as to keep 
these things for yourself," said Flora, coolly, with 
a much-injured air. "They w^ere wasting their 
sweetness on the desert air, and I really think it a 
little hard that you should make such a fuss about it. " 



140 A Brilliant Woman. 

Mrs. Burling-ton was very angry. "I have re- 
covered these," she said, holding up the last bunch 
the poor beds would give for some time. " What 
did you intend to do with them ? You do not wear 
them." 

At this inopportune moment Mr. Wyncote's tall 
figure appeared, and he hurried his steps as he saw 
Mrs. Burlington. 

" For goodness' sake, Molly, let me have the 
violets, and I'll explain everything afterwards," 
exclaimed Flora, in a low voice. " You will ruin 
all my hopes if you don't." 

Mrs. Burlington turned, and went into the house. 
She threw the bunch of violets on the hall table, 
and went away, resolved that some steps should be 
taken to put an end to what was becoming a ver>' 
real annoyance to her. If need be, she would even 
appeal to her husband. Flora met Mr. Wyncote 
with a pouting smile, and gave him the violets. 

" Mrs. Burlington did not stay to see me? " said 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 141 

Mr. Wyncote, carelessly accepting the flowers from 
Flora. " What a curious contradiction she is ! " 

"We had better go into the park," said Flora. 
" I have much to say to you. " 

He looked far from lover-like as he followed 
her ; but Maria, from her sitting-room window, saw 
him go, violets in hand, and felt relieved. "Surely, 
that must come all right in time," she said, aloud. 
And, happily convinced that all was safe as far as 
he was concerned, she went to see Aunt Anne. 
She was a little restless ; and the time seemed long 
to her as it always does when an arrival is impending, 
and the arrival is one fraught with consequences to 
ourselves. But, once beside Aunt Anne, restless- 
ness seemed to become soothed and to grow quiet. 
That peaceful, happy, serene nature shed some of 
its peace around it, and no greater proof could well 
be given of the change in young Mrs. Burlington 
than that she had now gone to Aunt Anne for 
advice about Flora Harrington and Mr. Wyncote. 



142 A Brilliant iVoman. 

Aunt Anne heard everything patiently, sympa- 
thetically, and without interruption. 

"Now, Aunt Anne, what can I do; what ought 
I to do ? It really cannot go on any longer ! " 

" Have you consulted Cyril, my dear ? " 

"No. Cyril is prejudiced. He dislikes all the 
Wyncotes so much. He really is rather unjust to 
this young man." 

" Do you think that he shows good taste 
in coming to the house when the master dislikes 
his society, and shows it? I suppose he does 
show it?" 

" He certainly does when they meet, " and Mrs. 
Burlington laughed a little. " But Mr. Wyncote 
invariably comes when he is out. It is the most 
curious thing ! If there is a meeting, or my husband 
has to attend to some business away from home, 
Mr. Wyncote invariably appears. One would really 
believe that some one told him when he was to 
be out." 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 143 

"Possibly some one does tell him/' said Aunt 
Anne, very quietly. 

"Flora? I doubt it, because at present the love 
is more on his side than hers, though I am sure 
that she is in love with him." 

"Miss Harrington says that he is in love with 
her?" 

" Yes. I believe he has told her so frequently, 
but he has never asked her to marry him." 
" And never will, my dear. " 

" Never will ! Oh, dear Aunt Anne, please do 
not prophesy ill to poor Flora." 

" You would feel sorry, then, if this affair ended 
in nothing? " 

"So very sorry. Poor Flora somehow does not 
get on. I can quite see her faults, but I am sorry 
for her; and she cannot live here always." 

" I am glad you have come to this conclusion, " 
Aunt Anne said, quaintly. "Frankly, my dear, I 
am not at all a competent person to give you 



144 ^^ Brilliant Woman, 

advice, because I so thoroughly disapprove of Flora 
Harrington. I do not for a moment wish to be 
unjust, but she is not the style of young lady I care 
about. She is not at all like you, my dear." 

" And you do care for me a little ? You are 
very good, Aunt Anne." 

" My advice to you, dear, is to go straight to 
your husband, and put the matter before him. You 
think Mr. Wyncote is paying meaningless attentions 
to Miss Harrington?" 

" I do not know what to think, " said poor Maria, 
frankly. "Judging from what she says, he does 
mean to propose to her. From what I have seen, 
I am afraid he means nothing of the kind. When 
I am there he takes quite as much — even more — 
pains to recommend himself to me than he does to 
her; and this annoys me." 

" I can quite imagine that. " 

" Aunt Anne, what have the Wyncotes done ? 
Why does my husband object to them all so much ?" 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 145 

Then, seeing that the old lady did not answer, 
she continued, slowly, and in a tone of very real 
feeling, '^ I sometimes fear there is some secret 
connected with the family I ought to know — a 
disgraceful secret — but why am I to be treated as a 
child? If there is something, I ought to know it!" 
she said, insistently, with a certain pathos in her voice. 

" I think so, too, " said Aunt Anne. " I have 
said so to Cyril." 

*' Then there is some secret?" 

"Yes," said Aunt Anne. "But, my dear, you 
must in this accept the leading of your husband. 
Knowing it would make you very unhappy, for 
your own sake, he says nothing ! " 

" Oh, he is wrong, " exclaimed Mrs. Burlington, 

passionately, " and it is hard for me. " Then she 

added, loyally, making an effort over herself that 

Aunt Anne fully appreciated, " If he does not 

wish me to know, I cannot honourably try to 

find out. But it is hard." 

VOL. II. 10 



146 A Brilliant IVoman. 

She remained thoughtful for a time, and as the 
carriage was announced to take her to the station 
to meet her aunt she left. On both sides regard 
and affection increased day by day, and it had 
come to this now — that Aunt Anne actually blamed 
her nephew, and blamed him severely, for being 
so indifferent, so blind, to his wife's merits. 

Mrs. Kingson, with her charming manner, her fresh 
dresses, and her soft speeches, was a new instance 
to Maria of how much she must have changed. For 
her aunt's speeches sounded untrue in her ears. Her 
manner, she thought, was affected, and she appeared 
overdressed. How bitterl}^ she took herself to task 
need not here be related. But the fact remained. 

"My dear, sweet child, Avhat a treat to see you 
again ! And, my dear, how lovely you are looking! 
This carriage yours? How delightful! What 
beautiful horses ! What a lovely part of the world ! 
How lucky you are! I do trust, my dear, you 
appreciate your blessings ! " 



A71 Arrival and a Disappointment. 147 

" Which ? " asked Maria, laughing, as they drove 
along. "My looks, the carriage, the horses, or the 
loveliness of the country, for I do not think 
that lovely?" 

"Dearest child — everything." The lodge gate 
was open, and they drove in, and her admiration 
redoubled. "Well, my own dear child, all I can 
say is that I knew I had done well for you, but 
I never realised how well till now!" 

This speech jarred terribly on Mrs. Burlington. • 
Only the consciousness of INIrs. Kingson's vague 
manner of asserting things restrained her from an 
open and direct questioning which would have led 
there and then to much that might have been 
unpleasant. With Mr. Burlington Mrs. Kingson's 
tactics were very different. She admired the old 
carving in the hall, the arrangement of the big 
rooms opening one into another, and filled with 
flowers and beautiful pictures, rare china, and all 
the collections of the many generations who had 



148 A Brillia7it lVo?nan. 

money and good taste. But the burden of her 
song to him was that it must be a delightful 
reflection to him that his wife with her great 
beauty and perfect taste was so charming and 
beautifully in keeping with every one of the sur- 
roundings. Mr. Burlington gave reserved answers, 
and Mrs. Kingson had the enthusiasm to herself. 
Maria avoided her husband's eyes when she re- 
turned from leaving her aunt and the two pale and 
very plain girls upstairs to rest till tea-time. 

But the consciousness that he was looking at 
her made her at length look up. His first words 
were kindly. " You must be glad to have your 
aunt with you. She is looking very well." 

"Yes. I think she is somehow changed." 

"Has she? She is very much the person I have 
always known her." 

" Then, perhaps, I have changed. " 

" Perhaps. You were always very fond of her, were 

you not? Very intimate. Like mother and daughter?" 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 149 

He was watching her attentively. 

Maria was puzzled by his manner and by his 
questions. " It is so difficult for me to know about 
the intimacy between a mother and daughter; but 
I know she was always kind. Perhaps she showed 
kindness in her own way, more than in studying 
what I liked. Cyril, it is very sad to be motherless ! " 

Her eyes filled with tears, and her husband rose 
to stand nearer her, when a servant entered with 
a note that required an immediate answer. 

Cyril was provoked, and his wife was relieved. 
She was at that moment suffering from a sense of 
the great disappointment which her aunt's presence 
had brought with it; and of late, since her tedious 
recovery from the effects of her fall, she had often 
tried to lay the blame of all she felt to be wrong 
upon the deprivation of a mother's care and affec- 
tion. Then the words of her aunt came persistently 
back to her memory. What did they mean? How 
could Mrs. Kingson have " done well " for her? 



150 A Brilliant Woman. 

Cyril had been passionately in love with her, and 
how was Mrs. Kingson mixed up in that? She 
resolved to get an explanation at no distant day. 

She counted it very unfortunate that Mr. Wyn- 
cote came to tea, and that Flora appeared at her 
very worst that afternoon." 

But she was thunderstruck at the effect Mr. Wyn- 
cote's arrival had upon Mrs. Kingson. Nothing could 
look more harmonious than the five o'clock tea party, 
with the exquisitely fine lace tea-cloth, beautiful 
china, and pretty service upon which the capricious 
flames of a very cheery wood fire played fitfully. 
Mrs. Kingson, who was a Sybarite and enjoyed 
luxurious repose, was thoroughly enjoying herself, 
her only drawback being the anxiety about the cakes 
equally enjoyed by her daughters." 

"Dora, my love, hot cake is so pernicious ; think 
of your figure and your complexion." 

" Yes, mother ; but a journey makes one so 
hungry. " 



A71 Arrival and a Disappointment 151 

" Then, my child, eat toast. " 

" Yes, mother, " and Dora calmly went on eating 
cake, and her mother said no more. 

It seemed to Mrs. Burlington as if it was only 
yesterday since she had heard those same words 
and answered in the same way. 

Then Flora would be so absurd and so tiresome. 
She quite took the line of doing the honours to Mrs. 
Kingson, called her attention to one thing and an- 
other, patronised the girls, and succeeded in driving 
^Irs. Kingson into a white heat of indignation. 

If she had not been annoyed for her aunt's sake 
no one would have been more thoroughly amused 
than Maria herself The warfare was like the buzzing 
of an intrusive midge which it is impossible to get 
rid of, and whose sting is more irritating than pain- 
ful, but long continued reduces you to abject 
despair. 

" Nice rooms these, Mrs. Kingson? See that branch 
of red maple leaves ? My idea ; breaks that rigid 



i$2 A Brilliant Woman. 

line there; you admire the way the room is ar- 
ranged ? Yes, I never rested till we got the sofa out 
of that corner, as Mr. Burlington never flirts, and 
Molly is kept in great order. Where was the use! 
If I flirt, I do it openly. I thought you must have 
forgotten all that sort of iniquity long ago, I dare- 
say you did the same. " 

" I quite fail to comprehend you. Miss Errington." 
" My name is Harrington. No one has given 
me the chance of changing it, worse luck!" 

"That seems curious," said Mrs. Kingson, 
anxious to be a little repressive, even a little nasty, 
to this aggressive young person. " I know so little 
of girls. I married so young myself" 

" So I can quite imagine," said Flora, with most 
open impertinence. " Men nev^er much care about 
clever girls. As a fact they are afraid of them ; 
the other sort always marry young. " What might 
have followed is unknown to any one, for Mr. 
Wyncote was just then announced, and Mrs. King- 



An Arrival and a Disappointment. 153 

son absolutely paled as she heard his name, and 
betrayed so much astonishment that Maria once 
more felt that mixed up with the family was some 
tremendous secret, and that she herself in some way 
or other was more affected by that secret than any 
one else. 

She resolved that at no distant day she would 
find out everything. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A COMING STORM. 

Marcia Dorington, very loyal to her friends, and 
having that sense of gratitude which human nature 
is so often accused of being without, took serious 
thought about the knot of difficulty and misconception 
which was keeping lifelong friends apart on her 
account. She had conceived a better and higher 
opinion of Mrs. Burlington than she had somehow 
been led to beHeve possible, though the wonder 
always remained as to what had been the attraction 
in Mr. Burlington's eyes, and why it had so com- 
pletely gone. She had that unfeigned interest in him 



A Coming Storm, 155 

which all good women have for a man whom (sup- 
posing the affections free) they might have married. 
And Marcia knew that if she had not loved 
unwisely, if she had known everything before she 
had allowed herself to love Charlie Beryl, she could 
have loved and been very happy with Cyril Burling- 
ton. He had an affectionate temper, was full of 
intellectual resources, and, above all, was appre- 
ciative; and it is this quality of appreciation which, 
almost more than anything else, carries a woman 
through the trials and storms of life, and enables 
her to bear cheerfully sufferings, privations, and 
all else. 

It is the want of that appreciation which breaks 
down a man and a woman equally. To toil all day, 
and find that all that toil is taken for granted; to 
suffer without repining, and find the effort unre- 
cognised, and to receive no kindly words; to be 
allowed to feel that it is only a matter of course — 
this failure of recognition, which increases with 



156 A Brilliant Woman. 

years, destroys home happiness more than anything. 
For it is real appreciation which increases affection 
and which leads to open recognition, and makes a 
human being feel capable of any sacrifice. Marcia, 
while never fencing with herself, honestly allowing 
that she loved young Beryl too deeply ever to put 
any one in his place, thought it no disloyalty to 
him to place Mr. Burlington very high up in her 
estimation. She thought of him so well that she 
must try to serve him now. 

For many, many months she had not seen Mr. Beryl, 
and only once in all that time had she written to 
him. Her letter, then, had been written because she 
wished him to understand that he must be a friend, 
and only a friend, and that the affectionate footing 
he was anxious to remain upon was impossible for 
her, and, indeed, was not to be thought of She had 
cleared him from all blame. He had thought that 
she knew everything. That she did not know was 
her fault, and not his. He had read and re-read her 



A Coming Storm. 157 

letter, which, while resolute enough, was full of very 
real sympathy, and he took comfort finally from 
what at first had filled him with despair — her saying- 
that it was impossible for her to pretend that she 
could remain on an affectionate footing, and that 
they had better not meet. He had drifted into a 
position with her which might have been fatal to 
both. Calling it fi-iendship and Platonic liking, and 
all else, he found that when the wrench had been 
made, his eyes were opened, and he knew then 
that he had sinned, and very deeply, towards her. 
And she had forgiven him. 

Her letter now was a very simple and womanly 
letter. She dwelt amusingly on the jealousy of 
Mrs. Burlington, explained the object of her visit 
there, and touched very lightly on the fact of 
Mrs. Burlington's ignorance and Cyril's silence. 
She let him draw his own inferences. " I hope, " she 
said at last, " that you will all try to see something 
of him. He is too much without man's society where 



158 A Brilliant Woman. 

he is, and he is one of the men who are so true 
and so loyal that he is a friend worth keeping." 

Mr. Beryl understood, and showed the letter to 
his father and the others; and they also understood. 
*'We have wronged him," said Sir Harry, "and we 
must try to make amends." 

In this way Cyril's path was made easy for him, 
and just when he was worrying himself to try to 
find some way of putting things right for his wife 
he found no explanation necessary. Everything was 
cleared up. No explanation was necessary as far 
as the Beryls were concerned, who in some way 
had come to know the truth. But Cyril found his 
wife's inquiries and her surprise very much more diffi- 
cult to answer in any way that was satisfactory to her. 

It was only natural that it should be so. Taking 
things lightly as she did, Mrs. Burlington still was 
capable of feeling any slight when she realised that 
a slight had been offered. 

The way in which she had been hurried away 



A Coming Storm. 15Q 

from the Beryls that morning always remained very 
vividly in her memory; that Cyril had been dread- 
fully displeased, that she had been ill, and had lost 
her baby — all these things, not unnaturally, made 
her resent renewed friendship and cordial invitations 
without excuses. Afterwards her husband remem- 
bered the rigid look in her face when he had told 
her of Sir Harry's letter. He could not blame her 
when she refused to go, and when she expressed 
her surprise in strong terms. 

" I am not going to be taken up and put down 
as they choose, " she said. " There is another mys- 
tery! Why am I to be treated as a child incap- 
able of understanding, or as an indiscreet woman to 
whom her husband's affairs are not on any account 
to be divulged? I know that everything that con- 
cerns me is kept from me, and that I am to be 
lulled in a fool's paradise ! I refuse to be so treated ! 
Go to Sir Harry Beryl's, and simply say that 
I decline to return to the house from which I was 



i6o A Brilliant Wo?na7i. 

so discourteously dismissed. You cannot blame me ! " 

" No ; I cannot blame you ; but it was my doing, 
not his." 

" Besides, I have another good reason for staying 
here. There is my aunt; of course I cannot leave 
her. But you need not put that forward ; I would far 
rather you simply stated the truth. I always try 
to speak the truth," she said, proudly; "I leave 
prevarication to others." 

Cyril had never admired her more. 

"I am in your hands," he said; "I will not go 
if you have the smallest feeling about my going." 

"You must do what you think right," she an- 
swered ; " I have no feeling about it as regards you. " 

"I can go for one night." 

" Why shorten your stay ? " 

" You are sure that you will not forgive and 
come. They are my oldest friends, and circum- 
stances change." 

"Nothing is changed," she said, a little hardly. 



A Coming Storm. i6i 

" Nothing. I have done and undone nothing. What 
my offence was I do not know, and, not knowing, 
how can I repent? I have done no harm willingly, 
and I do not choose to be forgiven." 

And Cyril knew that she was right. It was 
simply one of those unfortunate things for which 
there seemed to be no remedy. Honestly, things 
were hard for her; he would get leave to explain 
all to her. And yet he felt it absolutely impossible 
to take Aunt Anne's advice, and tell her all there 
was to tell her about herself. 

If she loved him, how easy all would have been ! 
But as things were between them, if she ever came 
to know the truth, and learned that her position 
had appealed to his compassion, the consequences 
would be disastrous. The feud between Mrs. King- 
son and Flora went on, making a sort of under- 
current accompaniment to life at Burlington IManor, 
which sometimes amazed and sometimes amused 

Maria. And it may fairly be said that Mrs. King- 
VOL. II. II 



1 62 A Brilliant Woman. 

son brought a good deal upon herself. She never 
left things alone, and used to remember afterwards 
answers she might have given, and things she might 
have said, and lose her temper because those words 
had not come to her at the right moment. She had 
other reasons for being- out of temper. There is no 
open ingratitude more flagrant than the ingratitude 
of a woman who has achieved a good position and 
a prosperous marriage through the means of another 
woman, whether that other is or is not a relation. 

The reason is obvious. No woman will ever 
allow that any consideration has weighed with the 
man she marries beyond the direct one of her 
own perfections and the passion she has inspired. 
She resolutely ignores any other. Everyone knows 
how much other people have in their power with 
regard to the making or marring of a marriage, but 
that is not to say that the person who wins ever 
acknowledges it or believes a patent fact applic- 
able to herself. Mrs. Kingson took much credit 



A Coming Storm. 163 

to herself. She had shown tact and kindness, and 
a real desire to befriend her husband's niece. She 
felt justified in being pleased at her having " man- 
aged" the whole thing so well. Having achieved 
what she had felt to be so desirable, she thought 
it hard that her efforts should be so completely 
ignored; now it was harder still to see Maria 
accepting all the good gifts she (under Providence, 
of course) had brought her as if she had won them 
by dint of very superior merit; and, having got 
them, treat them as a matter of course, and even 
make light of them. 

Mrs. Kingson knew that she could not so treat 
them, that the luxury and wealth would be to her 
far dearer than they apparently were to her niece, 
and she was watching for some opportunity of 
bringing her good fortune home to her, and of 
saying, in roundabout terms, "You owe all this 
to me. " At the very bottom of this lay a strenu- 
ous desire to annoy and vex Flora Harrington. It 



164 -A Brilliajit Woman. 

had been unwise of Maria to allow Flora to prolong 
her visit, which was oppressive even to her now, 
and which she knew bored her husband. But when 
she saw the stand taken by Mrs. Kingson it made 
her obstinate, and the words she had intended to 
say to Flora remained unsaid. 

Things were what diplomatists call "a little 
strained, " when Mr. Burlington, after a brief cor- 
respondence with the Beryls, having fixed a day for 
his visit there, announced to the assembled party the 
hour of his departure. 

Maria was evidently as much in ignorance of 
this as the others, and she was not pleased at 
having been told it in this fashion. But, after an 
involuntary betrayal of her annoyance, she tried to 
conceal her chagrin, launched out into an amusing 
account of all she intended to do during his ab- 
sence, and was brilliant, witty, and her old self, 
apparently without a care. 

Then injudicious Mrs. Kingson gave her a feeling 



A Co77iing Storvt. 165 

of intense irritation against her husband by con- 
doling with her for having been put into a position 
of some embarrassment. 

" You poor, dear child ! It was quite a surprise 
to you, I saw. But, my dearest Maria, what does 
it mean ? Where is the confidence between hus- 
band and wife I expected to find ? Your husband 
ought to have told you his plans privately, my 
dear ; he ought, indeed. " 

" Well, you see, he did not do so. Of course, I 
knew^ he was going. " 

" Very odd, my dear; very odd. I do trust and hope, 
Maria, you fully appreciate your excellent husband. 
Ah ! my dear, when I think what might have been ! 
And at one time how difficult it was to manage ! " 

Then Mrs. Burlington rose up in wrath, and in 
a voice she could barely control, she said, " It is 
exactly that I want to know, and, that I am quite 
determined to know. What is there in the story 
of my life different from other lives?" 



1 66 A Brilliant Woman. 

• My dear Maria ! " 

* Why should I be more grateful to my husband 
than other women are expected to be to their 
husbands ? " 

•Who said so?" asked Mrs. Kingson, feebly. 
Having brought this storm about she now wished 
heartily she had left it alone. 

"You have!" 

" I said so ! my dear Maria ! " 

*In a thousand indirect ways — by a thousand 
insinuations and numberless allusions. My husband, 
I suppose, wished to marry me; what do you 
mean by managing it, and where was the difficulty?" 
Mrs. Burlington controlled herself, and spoke 
calmly. But her eyes were full of indignant fire, and 
quelled Mrs. Kingson, who was, it may be said, 
only too easily quelled, and a thorough moral coward. 

"My dearest child, you quite upset me," she 
said, peevishly ; " you really take one up so quickly, 
and in a hurry one uses words." 



A Coming Storm. 167 

" The words must seem just to you since you 
use them," said Maria. "The day you came you 
implied, as we drove up the avenue, that I was in 
your debt. What did you mean?" 

"Good gracious, my dear; I meant — nothing! 
Why twist and turn all I say?" 

"It seems to me that you twist and turn. But, 
I tell you frankly, Aunt Kingson, I cannot live as 
I am living now! I intend to find out — every- 
thing. I am determined to know that and all else ; 
and, if you will not tell, there are others who will." 

" My dear Maria 1 I do not think that you are treat- 
ing me kindly or nicely;" and Mrs. Kingson feebly 
began to shed a few tears. " I have always tried to 
be affectionate to you. I grudged nothing, and I al- 
ways liked you, my dear, I did my best for you always. " 

" You have always shown me kindness, and I 
am grateful for that kindness. I often wish now 
that your kindness had not always taken the form 
of flattery. But you flatter everyone." 



1 68 A Brilliant ll^oman. 

" Good gracious, my dear — flattery ? " 
"Yes; all I did was said to be right. But that 
has nothing to do \Y\t\\ what I want to know. 
What I want to know now is this — what is the 
story of my life? and in what way is my position 
different from that of other girls in my own rank 
in life ? And what do you mean by having * managed 
so well ' ? " said young Mrs. Burlington. " And I 
intend you to tell me these things." 



CHAPTER XII. 



PERPLEXITIES. 



Just as Mrs. Kingson was getting into a state 
bordering on despair, an interruption occurred by 
what she considered a special intervention of Provi- 
dence. She was one of the people who thought 
that Providence did assist her plans, and considered 

herself at those moments as very specially under 
its protection. 

The providential intervention at this moment was 

the arrival of a telegram from her husband. Sooner 

than he had thought possible he could get away, 

and he Wcis to arrive at the station that day. 



170 A Brilliant Woman. 

" And in an hour from now ! My dear child, is it 
quite convenient ? Can you send ? I should so like 
you to meet my husband. But if it is not convenient ?" 

" It is quite convenient. I am glad he is coming, 
as you fence and turn all my questions aside. He 
will, perhaps, be more reasonable. He will explain 
everything! " 

Mrs. Kingson affected not to hear. But as she 
left the room she said significantly, and in a voice 
which was full both of fretfulness and irritation, 
" You had better be warned by me. You have a 
good position; everything to make a woman happy. 
Knowing what you call 'everything' will not add 
to your happiness. It may destroy it! " The rustle 
of her dress as she went down the corridor, with 
its sweeping, swishing noise, died away before Mrs. 
Burlington changed her attitude. 

Her eyes were clouded with anxiety. She went 
back upon her married life, and started to find how 
much more her husband was to her now than he 



Perplexities. 1 7 1 

had been when, with a feeling almost of condescen- 
sion, she had married him. How lightly and thought- 
lessly she had undertaken those vows; and all her 
plans — those plans by which he was to ow^e his 
advancement — all the halo her brilliancy was to 
throw around him — what had it all resulted in ? She 
had for some reason been an evident drawback to 
him. The county neighbours had dropped away 
from them, and formality had taken the place of 
friendliness. His political hopes were destroyed 
through her; and his great friendship with the Beryls 
— that also was imperilled in some way, and by her 
fault. What had she done? 

She sank into a chair, and stared out of the open 
window without seeing anything. She knew that 
her husband had become to her, by slow and in- 
sensible degrees, an object of sincerest respect, even 
of deep regard. To live with a nature always un- 
selfish, always even-tempered, or, at any rate, \vith 
a temper so completely under control as to appear 



172 A Brilliant Woman. 

even; to find him so absolutely true and loyal that 
he never allowed a shadow of blame to rest upon 
her, because she was his wife, never to reproach 
her, to forgive her vanity, her thoughtless speeches, 
and to make allowances for her. 

And with all this came the terrible conviction 
that he did not really love her, and that he, as well 
as she herself, missed something in their lives — that 
something which sanctifies a home, and fills a com- 
monplace existence with beauty. After all, what 
had she done either to win or to keep his love, 
and what love had she given him? 

The acquaintance with Marcia Dorington had 
been a new experience to her. The repose and 
quiet charm of manner, the absolute unconsciousness 
which can only exist with self-oblivion, spoke for- 
cibly to Mrs. Burlington, who was herself always 
anxious to impress other people, and to dazzle them 
by a brilliancy which was her characteristic. She 
felt forlorn when she reflected that her husband was 



Perplexities, 173 

going to be absent for some days ; and she thought 
it strange that it should be so, because she was 
self-reliant. Then came the confused wonder, which, 
poor thing! was only natural. She was expected 
to be in a perpetual state of gratitude for every 
common civility shoAvn her. 

Why? 

Even her husband, though he had endeavoured 
to do away with the impression his words gave her, 
had said that it was "extremely kind" of the Duch- 
ess to call. As if she had not probably called 
upon everyone else within a certain radius. Why 
was a civility she was entitled to from one of her 
friends to be put down as a kindness? 

In the midst of these perplexing thoughts Flora 
arrived upon the scene, and Maria was not sorry 
to have an opportunity of speaking to her. She 
wanted to know what her plans were, and she 
wished to entreat her to change her manner to Mrs. 
Kingson during the remainder of her stay. 



174 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

"Am I an interruption?" asked Flora, dropping 
her plump person on a low-footed stool, and, as 
usual, biting her pouting red lips to enhance their 
redness. 

" No, Flora; I wanted to see you. I wanted to 
speak to you, dear." 

" Are you going to scold me ? because, if you 
are, I shall run away at once! " and Flora shook 
her fat shoulders, and looked more impudent than 
usual. 

" I am not going to scold you, but I want to 
know something. Tell me what are your plans?" 

" My plans ! good gracious ! I never made a 
plan in my life," and Flora laughed very noisily. 
"Why do you want to know?" 

" Frankly, Flora (you must not be oifended with 
me), but I wanted to know when you thought of 
going home ? " 

"I am not in the very least offended with you; 
not in the very least. You can't help yourself; it is 



Perplexities. 1 7 5 

that tiresome aunt of yours, Mrs. Kingson. I know 
all about it. She just hates me, and all because I 
give her as good as she gives me; and she is not 
nice to me, and does not speak at all nicely of 
you, Molly, darling, though she does flatter and 
fawn so to your face ! " 

" My aunt, Mrs. Kingson, has nothing to do with 
it. But, Flora, you can quite understand that a 
perpetual third is not always a joy, especially to a 
man. You have been a great many weeks here, 
and surely you have home duties." 

" No, I have not ; besides, I do think it very cruel 
of you to put an end to all chance of my making 
a very good marriage. Mamma will be so angry 
with me." 

"Do you really expect Mr. Wyncote to propose 
to you, Flora?" 

" He ought to, and he would do it to-morrow if 
he thought you wished it. Will you not say one 
word for me?" 



176 A Brilltant Woman. 

"I never heard such nonsense," exclaimed Mrs. 
Burlington. " How can I tell him anything of the 
kind? What third person can interfere ? No, Flora, 
you deceive yourself. If Mr. Wyncote wanted to 
propose to you, he has had endless opportunities 
of doing so. I am afraid that his being in love with 
you is a delusion. I must speak plainly; and if 
you go, and he cares for you, he will follow you. " 

Flora's face was a study. She was pale with 
rage, and so furious that she could hardly speak. She 
sprang to her feet, and confronted her hostess. 
"You," she said — "you, of all women, to talk of a 
third person not interfering! How was your mar- 
riage made up ? Do you suppose that it would ever 
have come about if Mrs. Kingson had not managed 
it? She says so herself. I have heard her say so 
ever so often in this house. You are the last person 
to speak in that way. Your husband did not care ; 
he was not the least in love with you; only Mrs. 
Kingson got him to propose to you." 



Perplexities. 1 7 y 

She threw herself down again, and cried with 
sheer passion, frightened now at w^hat she had said. 
Mrs. BurHngton never looked at her, never spoke. 
She seemed turned to stone. 

At length she moved slowly to the door, and passed 
on to go to her own room. Flora rushed after her in 
an agony of fear and shame, and even remorse. 
" Molly! Molly! forgive me," she sobbed; " w^hat shall 
I do if you turn round upon me ! I wish my tongue 
had been cut out. I ^vish — I w4sh — Molly ! " 

" The words you have said are not words to 
forgive," said Mrs. Burlington. "I will only ask 
you one question: Is there — was there — any truth 
in what you said about my aunt — any truth in your 
having heard her say — those things?" 

" Every w^ord was true. How could I have 
invented it ? Yes, I have over and over again heard 
her say when you did things she did not like, that 
but for her you w^ould never have been hete — that 
you owed her everything!" 

VOL. II. \2 



lyg A Brilliant Woman. 

Mrs. Burlington turned quickly, before Flora 
could stop her, and went into her own room, leaving 
Flora Harrington more thoroughly unhappy than she 
had ever been in her life. She was in her way as great 
a coward as Mrs. Kingson. When she thought of the 
wrath of that lady when Maria spoke to her, and remem- 
bered the white fixed look on the face of her hostess 
and quondam friend, she felt that the best thing she 
could do was to go away as fast as ever she could. 

She went to her room, asked the maid who attended 
to her to pack her things, and, putting on her 
hat, slipped out of the house, trusting to have a 
final interview with Mr. Wyncote and to bring 
about w^hat she hoped for. She walked much faster 
than usual before she met the object of her hopes; 
and when she met him she might have read in his 
face, as she might have read before, that he was 
absolutely indifferent to her; more— that he actually 
disliked her. But Flora was so full of her own 
•deas, her own hopes, that she did not see. 



Perplexities. 1 7 9 

She held out her hand, and gazed tearfully at 
him, presenting anything but a prepossessing picture 
to the eyes of the young man. 

" This is good-bye, " she said, with a little sob and 
still gazing at him sentimentally. 

"Indeed! Are you going away? It is sudden, 
is it not?" 

" It is very sudden. " 

"I hope you have not had bad news?" 

" I have had no news at all. " 

"Then why . . . ?" 

" Why am I going ? Oh, I am so — so unhappy, 
Mr. Wyncote ! " and her sobs became more audible. 

He looked at her awkwardly. He did feel sym- 
pathetic, and this scene Avas not to his taste. 

'* Since my presence distresses you I will go on, " 
he said, raising his hat, really anxious to get away. 

" Oh, " sobbed Flora ; " it is not your presence ; 
it is because . . . because ... I am leaving you that 
I am unhappy!" 



i8o A Brilliant Woman. 

" It is really very good of you to mind, " he said, 
very coldly; " since I have done nothing to deserve it." 
" You are so cruel . . . You knew I cared . . . You 
must have known ..." 

She sobbed still more, and put her handkerchief 
to her eyes. When she withdrew it he had gone! 
Flora's rage and indignation knew no bounds. 
She vowed vengeance upon him, upon Mrs. Bur- 
lington, and Mrs. Kingson. The excitement of her 
passion kept her up ; she hurried back to the house, 
wrote a note to Maria, and went on foot to the station, 
where she sent a fly for her luggage, and only when 
she was in the train whirling up to London did she 
realise that she had lost her friend, and a luxurious 
place to stay at, and that all her hopes and ambitious 
aspirations were levelled by her own mischievous folly. 
Then she repented bitterly — not the seed she had 
sown, the mischief she had made, but the loss of 
what she could not replace. Never again would that 
luxurious ease be hers; never again would she be 



Perplexities. 1 8 1 

able to stay for many, many weeks in so delight- 
ful a place; never again would she have a chance 
of meeting the sort of man she desired to marry. 

" What a fool I was ! " she said aloud, gazing at 
the unlovely surroundings of her suburban dwelling. 

Her mother met her with much more surprise 
than pleasure in her face. 

" What has brought you home?" she asked. She 
knew Flora wxll — only too well. 

Flora laughed shortly. " One cannot live for all 
time at a friend's house." 

Her mother said nothing for a full minute. Then her 
anxiety showed itself. "Are you engaged, Flora?" 

" No, " said Flora, shortly ; " and if I stayed till 
I was grey and old it was not likely. When the 
lady of the house is young and good-looking, and 
monopolizes every man in sight, what chance has 
any girl?" 
^ "i^iat was it, was it?" 

"That was it." 



1 82 A Brilliant Woman. 

"Oh, those young married women have much to 
answer for!" said the aggrieved mother. 

" I think they have, " said Flora. " Let me have tea, 
mother ; and, please, don't let papa ask any questions. " 

And Mrs. Harrington rang for tea, and sympa- 
thised very much with her daughter; and Mr. Har- 
rington asked no questions, for which Flora was 
duly thankful. It was very difficult to put things 
as she liked to put them to Mr. Harrington. He 
had a knack of extracting so many contradictions. 
As the days went on, Flora had a faint hope (which 
grew fainter each day) that Mrs. Burlington would 
write and give her an opening. She could not 
believe that she had, by her own act and deed, 
shut the doors of what appeared a paradise to her. 
As time went on she realised still more how easy 
it is, in one moment of folly, to do what never can 
be put right again. Unfortunately for herself, she 
did not read the lesson right. It taught her nothing. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE BLACKNESS OF DESPAIR. 

Mrs. Burlington left Flora, and went to her own 
room. She locked herself in, and lay face downwards 
on the sofa, feeling as if her head was on fire, 
bewildered, and too deeply stirred to find relief in 
tears. Her whole w^orld appeared to have suddenly 
crumbled beneath her feet. She had vague misgiv- 
ings ; she had been conscious of some mystery — 
that remained a mystery still — that her husband 
had been persuaded to marry her, that he had 
needed persuasion, and that her aunt had openly 
boasted of having managed it all. 



184 A Brilliant Woman. 

All her life she had been made much of, petted, 
flattered, and been allowed to suppose herself as 
one superior to her surroundings, and in marrying 
Mr. Burlington, as we know, she had been pleased 
by the great surprise manifested, and which she 
read in only one way; and that way favourably to 
herself. 

Never had she had to suffer any disappointment. 
Her aunt was always smooth and essentially a 
person who took a certain proverb to heart about 
the easiest way of gliding over the surface of life. 
She flattered everybody — even herself. Her friends 
cited her as one of the charming women who never 
said an unkind word of anyone; her enemies — and 
she had some — talked of her as slippery and smooth 
and false. But a woman who is slippery and 
smooth is not always false, a great deal of her 
smoothness was from want of depth. She was ne\'er 
sufficiently interested in anyone or in any subject 
under the sun to get indignant about any asper- 



The Blackness of Despair. 185 

sions. She hated friction ; like Flora she detested it as 
she did cold and wet and other disagreeable things. 

Mrs. Burlington knew that a peevish denial was 
all she would have, and she resolved to keep out 
of the way till Mr. Kingson's arrival. From him 
she would learn what it all meant. In her misery, 
she missed her husband in a way that surprised 
her. He was so reliable and so absolutely true. 
What had been told him? Had he been lulled into 
acquiescence as she had been? Alas! If he had 
been deceived as she evidently had been deceived, 
what hope was there for them in the future — that 
looked so dreary a length to her at that moment. 

When the carriage returned with Mr. Kings on 
seated by his wife, Maria went to the door of the 
big drawing-room to receive him. She was deadly 
pale, and he was struck with consternation at her 
appearance ; there was also something in her manner 
which made Mrs. Kingson excessively uncomfortable. 

She tried to make signs to her husband that she 



1 86 A Brilliant Wojnan. 

wanted to speak to him first, but, as usual, poor 
man, he could not understand them, and she was 
baffled as she often had been before. Tea was 
served, and when that meal was over Maria rose. 
" I wish to ask you something, " she said in 
a low voice. " I want to speak to you, uncle, in 
my own sitting-room." 

"Certainly, my dear; nothing wrong I hope?" 
" How selfish and inconsiderate of you, my dear, 
to take my dear old man away when he has only 
just come off a long journey. Pray postpone 
conversation till later on. A wife has the first 
right to her husband." 

Maria did not answer her. She was looking at 
Mr. Kingson, and he could not ignore the appeal 
in her eyes. Something was wrong. What in the 
world had happened? 

Maria led the Avay to her sitting-room, made so 
charming by the good taste and lavish expenditure 
devoted to it. The scent of the lilies-of-the- valley 



The Blackness of Despair. 187 

and other flowers, that sparkling wood fire, that 
look of perfect comfort, all seemed far apart from 
any tragedy; and yet there was something tragic 
in the way Mrs. Burlington stood facing her uncle, 
waiting to hear what would change her careless, 
happy insouciance for a feeling akin to despair. 

Mrs. Kingson, trying to hide her nervousness 
and anxiety under a pettish assumption of being 
ill-used, said blandly as she followed her husband 
into the room, " I take it for granted I may be 
allowed to enter. My husband has no secrets from 
me!" 

Maria made no answer. She stood absolutely 
still; her face like marble, her dark eyes glowing 
with feverish excitement, which she repressed in 
her speech, which was singularly calm and emotion- 
less. 

"Uncle! I know you will tell me the truth. I 
wish to hear the truth ! Is there any reason why I 
should not be told the truth ? " 



1 88 A Brilliant Woman. 

"What about, my dear?" 

He was uneasy; he was extremely fond of his 
niece, and he had thought happily about her for a 
long time now, as safely married to a high- 
minded and honourable man who would make her 
happy all the rest of her life. 

" My dearest child ! " he went on, as he noted 
that she was in deadly earnest. " Your husband 
knows anything there is to know ; ask him. If he 
thinks it right to rake up old stories, he will do so. 
What is the use of it?" 

" Just what I say, " said Mrs. Kingson, much 
relieved. 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Maria, in a low thrilling voice, 
" are you also going to be against me, and I 
counted upon you! Why should I be treated in 
this way? I am allowed to feel that there is some 
disgraceful mystery in my life, and I am not to 
know what it is! " 

" I never said a single word to lead you to 



The Blackness of Despair. 189 

suppose such a thing, " exclaimed Mrs. Kingson. 
" My sweetest child, really your imagination is so 
extraordinary " said Mrs. Kingson. 

Maria raised her hand with a gesture of im- 
patience. " Aunt Kingson, you have said too much 
and too little ! You told Flora Harrington, you 
boasted openly, that but for you my husband would 
never have married me! Why? You must have 
deceived me as you deceived him, probably. What 
is there about me different from other girls who 
are wooed and won? Why should I be grateful 
for being on a footing with other people? I w^ant 
to know, and I appeal to you, my uncle, who 
have been as a kind and dear father to me, to tell 
me everything! " 

Poor Mr. Kingson, who was a warm-hearted man, 
was greatly moved by this appeal. But it was 
exactly w^hat he had always foreseen. He had 
always told his wife that a day might come when 
Maria would not be satisfied to be left in ignorance. 



IQO A Brilliant Woman. 

And his wife had always answered his objections 
by giving the plausible reasons that it would make 
her unhappy, and, if she married, her husband was 
the proper person, etc. 

Now he regretted it. 

" What you say has great truth in it, Maria. I 
think you should know all there is to tell. What 
do you wish to know in the first place?" 

"I wish to know the truth— the exact truth— 
about my marriage. How was it, uncle? Mrs. 
Kingson told me I was admired, and that if he 
was a marrying man I was the one object of 
Mr. Burlington's wishes. Now I hear of per- 
suasion. It hurts me; I want to know what it 
means, and why my marriage had to be " arranged" 
and " managed, " and why it was so difficult a 
matter that I ought to be deeply indebted to her; 
had it not been for her tact — her management — it 
never would have been. " 

She spoke still in the calm and quiet tone which 



The Blackness of Despair. 1 9 1 

had so struck her uncle all along, but her breath 
came and went quickly, and her wonderful eyes 
were still full of the strange far-away look 
and subdued fire which spoke of the deep and 
passionate excitement under which she was 
labouring. 

" I know very little what led to Mr. Burlington's 
proposal in the first instance, " said Mr. Kingson, 
anxious to speak the exact truth, and to speak it 
so as to wound her as little as possible. " After- 
wards " 

" Afterwards ? " repeated Maria, breathlessly. 

" As an honourable man, I could not let him 
marr}^ you in ignorance of certain things. I can 
assure you, my dear child, I told him with much 
hesitation — I was afraid of what might be the con- 
sequences! He relieved me very much, for, after 
thinking it all over very earnestly, he turned to 
me, and I always remember the exact words he 
used. " 



192 A Brilliant Woman. 

" Tell me ! " came almost as a cry from Mrs. 
Burlington's white lips. 

" He said : * Poor thing ! Poor child ! It shall make 
no difference. She had better not know, as she 
has never been told.' It relieved me very much 
Some men might, you know, have drawn back 
But your husband is one in a thousand, my dear." 

There was a dead silence, only broken by the 
short, quick breath from Mrs. Burlington's agitated 
frame. " And now tell me why ? " she said, holding 
a little more tightly to the marble figure which 
stood in bold relief on one side of the chimney-piece. 
" What is it ? " 

" You are my niece, my dear. My poor brother 
was a very dear fellow and good-looking. He was 
so great a favourite everywhere; he had so many 
gifts. He got into some sad scrapes, and for a 
time we all lost sight of him. Then I was sent 
for. He was in Paris. You were with him . . . 
He was dying of a wound. . . He had fought a 



The Blackfiess of Despair. 193 

duel, and had been shot. It was about his wife, 
and I confess if I had been he, I should hardly 
have thought her worth fighting for . . . But there, 
my dear, forgive me. Of course, you cannot feel 
as I do. She was your mother. " 

"Who was my mother?" 

" A dancer, my dear ; an English or Irish girl. 
I do not know her real name, but my poor brother 
adored her. Then that wretched Mr. Wyncote 
came upon the scene, and my brother found out 
things, and challenged him. The worst feature of 
the whole thing, I think, was that when my poor 
brother was carried to his home she had left it. 
She went off with Wyncote, and left you and her 
dying husband to fate. Heartless ! " 

"You are quite, quite sure of this?" Was ic 
Maria speaking? The voice so hoarse, so altered. 

" We had every reason to be sure. Well, now, 

you know everything, " said Mr. Kingson, relieved 

at having got it over; "and you see, my dear, that 
VOL. TI. 13 



1 94 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

it must have been a shock to Mr. BurUngton. It 
was particularly unfortunate that the scoundrel who 
killed my brother and worked all that mischief 
should have been a Wyncote, because, though you 
probably never saw them — they would naturally 
keep away from you! — they are very near neigh- 
bours, and, unfortunately, a good many people knew 
the story for that reason. A bad lot, a bad lot! " 

" My mother ! Is she living, or did she die ? " 

" Oh, died long ago, I believe ; " said Mr. King- 
son; " of course if she had been alive we should 
have heard something of her. " 

Mrs. Kingson put up her handkerchief to screen 
her face, also to hide a peculiar expression that 
flitted over it. There was an inarticulate cry from 
Maria — a cry as if an animal was wounded to death, 
and Mr. Kingson was just in time to catch her, 
as the whole strain told upon her, and she fell back 
insensible. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

ONE LETTER WHICH DID NOT REACH ITS DESTINATION. 

When Mrs. Burlington lay unconscious before her 
uncle and aunt, Mrs. Kingson was at the moment 
too anxious to triumph, otherwise " I told you so, " 
or words to that effect would have aggravated the 
position to poor Mr. Kingson. He had small experience 
of fainting fits, and this prolonged insensibility looked 
like death. When after moments that seemed hours 
to him his niece came to herself, she stretched out 
her hand to him, and thanked him in a tone that 
went to his heart. 

Then she prayed to be left alone. She would go 



196 A Brilliant Wo man. 

to her bedroom and keep quiet. She wanted to be 
alone. She shrank from Mrs. Kingson s caressing 
hand as if it hurt her; and then, making an effort 
on seeing that this vexed her, she said gently, 
" Forgive me ! you have acted as you thought right. 
You cannot help thinking in this way. You have 
often shown me kindness." 

Mrs. Kingson shed tears, and with some difficulty 
Mrs. Burlington was left to face it all in solitude. 
Her brain seemed ready to burst; all her pulses 
were tingling. To a high-spirited and proud woman 
death would have been far, far preferable to life 
with this knowledge. 

The cruelty of allowing her to grow up in uncon- 
sciousness — of letting her imagine that she was on 
a footing with other girls, while she was the child 
of a disgraced mother, the child of a dancer of 
disreputable character — seemed so great to her! 

Then, through all the bitterest reflections a woman 
could know, came the remembrance of her husband's 



One Letter which did 7iot reach its Destination. 1 97 

infinite patience and his generosity. How often, 
though all unconsciously, she must have wounded 
him! That hateful dance! No wonder he tried to 
prevent her from recalling her story to everyone. 
But who knew her story? How was it? The Duchess, 
did she know it? And was that why her husband 
had talked of gratitude ; and the Beryls, and Marcia 
Dorington? 

The poor thing lay crushed with her misery and 
sorrow, and yet thinking more of her husband and 
the consequences to him than even of herself. Tears 
came thick and fast as she recalled scenes in which 
she must have appeared to him so infinitely ridiculous, 
and yet he had borne with her and made no sign. 

What was there left to her ; how could she repair 
the wrong she had all unwittingly done him ? Only 
one thing seemed possible to her now ; to obliterate 
all remembrance of herself, to go away, and blot 
out from his life all memory of herself and her 
history. 



igS A Brilliant Woman, 

She could not free him, but she could make the 
tie between them as if it did not exist. 

Did Aunt Anne know her story ? She thought of 
the self-assertion, the airs of superiority, all the vain 
girlish follies she had been guilty of, and she shrank 
piteously from the recollection of the ridiculous light 
she must have shown herself in. Her husband would 
be away for some two or three days ; during that time 
she would think — she felt she could think no more 
now — and she would make some plan. 

When her maid came to oiFer her tea, she found 
her so feverish and so excited that she was quite 
disturbed about her; but everything she suggested 
in the way of a remedy was refused, and Mrs. Burling- 
ton was left again to the one thing she craved for — 
solitude. In the meantime Mr. Kingson and his 
wife had a passage at arms that was considerably 
more serious than usual. 

" Having kept Maria in ignorance of her story 
all these years against my advice, why in the world 



One Letter which did not reach its Destinatio?i. 1 99 

could you not hold your tongue about your 'per- 
suasion ' and your * management ' now ? You might 
have known that with a high-spirited, quick-tempered 
girl like poor ^laria, there would be the very devil 
to pay if it came out." 

" I think you are swearing, " answered Mrs. King- 
son, in a shocked voice, trying to carry the war 
into the enemy's country, and failing signally. 

Mr. Kingson, as a rule, allowed his wife to 
arrange all minor matters, but she knew by expe- 
rience that in certain things she had to submit to 
his ruling. There was always, to speak the truth, 
something Mrs. Kingson kept him in ignorance 
of — her passion for keepmg things smooth being 
only equalled by her passion for carrying some 
favourite point Avhenever that point appeared a 
little difficult to carry. She intrigued about every- 
thing. If she made a new purchase, it was con- 
veyed in secrecy to her house, and she would take 
her own time for announcing it, her time generally 



200 A Brilliant Woman. 

being when it was certain of being discovered in 
some other way. Her idea of mankind was a Uttle 
pecuhar. All men, according to her, required to 
be "managed," and the happiest married couple 
(like herself and her husband, for instance) was 
where a woman was clever and capable, and did 
manage. She prided herself upon having few 
matrimonial jars, and often pointed out with some 
pride to her husband how well they got on. 

The whole history of the silence maintained 
toward poor Maria was that Mrs. Kingson had 
taken up a particular position, and, having taken 
it up, insisted on maintaining it. 

The child was extremely pretty, very graceful, 
and very winning. "I will be her mother," said 
Mrs. Kingson, " on one condition, that we bury 
the fact. If she is to be told, it will destroy all 
her brightness, and take one of her great charms 
away ; and if this is to be the case, send her else- 
where. If you follow my wishes, I charge myself 



One Letter which did not reach its Destination, 201 

\vith her future." She said this so very impress- 
ively that though her husband disagreed with her, 
he was for a time unable to argue \^dth her. Then 
when he did so, " Why blight her youth? " she had 
asked; "let her be happy now. She may never 
be so happy again? " 

Each time the idea was mooted that Maria ought 
to know, each time she had an excellent reason for 
postponing the revelation. Then when IMaria married 
she had had her triumph, and she had, perhaps, 
triumphed unduly. Now, when Mr. Kingson found 
how^ hardly it had gone with the poor girl, he repented 
bitterly that she had been brought up in ignorance. 
But repentance could amend nothing now. 

He felt now that Mr. Burlington ought to know 
what had happened, and that he should not come 
back to find his w^ife ill. Flora Harrington gone 
and the situation changed. So he sat down to 
enlighten him and to tell his story in his own 
straightforward fashion. He was not a very fluent 



202 A Brilliant Wofnan. 

writer, and he had that to say which was naturally 
delicate and difficult to say. He got as far as to 
tell the truth about his wife's unguarded statements, 
and Maria's fainting fit, when Mrs. Kingson came 
into the room. 

"Writing, dearest? I hoped you were resting 
after such a journey, and so trying a scene. I 
hoped you really would think a little of yourself, 
and take a rest." 

" The journey was nothing, and I find it impos- 
sible to rest when I have something on my mind." 

" Poor dear ! I cannot imagine what you can 
have upon your mind now. " 

" I have a disagreeable thing to do. I must write 
and tell Burlington that his wife is ill, and how it 
was that I was obliged to speak out and tell her 
everything. I will say as little about you as I can help. " 

" Thank you, dear. Why mention me at all ? " 

" Because I cannot tell the truth without telling 
the whole truth. " 



One Letter zvhich did not reach its Destination. 203 

" But Flora Harrington is the truth. She first 
stirred up all the mud." 

" She could have stirred up nothing if she had 
not known through you that there was mud, " he 
answered coldly. 

She was excessively annoyed. She did so hate 
disturbances and rows, and ever3^thing that troubled 
the calm she loved. 

She tried to argue, and to convince. Mr. King- 
son allowed her to argue, but would not be con- 
vinced; and even his wife at last came to the 
conclusion that further argument was useless. 

But ^Irs. Kingson was a woman who never 
accepted a defeat. She w^ent hastily to her own room, 
and she there and then penned a letter to Mr. 
Burlington, telling him her own version of the whole 
affair; and, having addressed it, she slipped it into 
her pocket, and returned to the library. 

It may be noted that she did not sign her name 
in full, but put a sort of hieroglyphic at the end 



204 A Brilliant: Womayi. 

of her letter that might answer for any initial. 

Mr. Kingson was not in the library when she 
returned, and the letter was lying unfolded as yet, 
but complete upon the blotting book. She glanced 
quickly at the contents, and flushed with anger and 
annoyance, when she saw the apology made for her 
great indiscretion in her husband's straightforward 
fashion. 

Mr. Kingson had little idea of the burning indigna- 
tion that lay under his wife's calm demeanour 
when he returned. He had been to see his niece, 
and in telling her he was writing to her husband, 
he asked what he could say from her ; and she had 
produced a sheet of paper, scribbled all over to him 
in pencil, and begged him to enclose it to him. 
Wx. Kingson had charged himself with this, and 
returned to his place. 

He added a postscript to his letter to the effect 
that Maria was quieter, and he hoped much better, 
and he sealed the two up, dropping the document 



One Letter which did not reach its Destination. 205 

himself into the postbox. Ha\^ng done the thing he 
thought justly enough was one of the most dis- 
agreeable tasks he had ever had to do, since there 
was a distinct reflection upon his wife in the narration , 
he did take the rest he was really in want of — lying 
back in a most luxurious Howard's chair and gave 
loud assurance to his wife of his resting and repose. 

To rise noiselessly, substitute one letter for another, 
and return to her place was the work of a moment, 
and with his letter in her pocket she heard with 
intense satisfaction the ponderous steps ofMarsham 
in the hall, the opening of the letter-box, and then 
his departure. 

All was safe ; and poor Maria's pathetic, agonised 
appeal to her husband to know his wishes, and what 
she could do to put things right for him —in which 
her gratitude, her admiration, and, all unconsciously 
to herself, her love for him were openly to be seen 
— lay in the soft lining of Mrs. Kingson's pocket \ 



CHAPTER XV. 

SUSPENSE AND NO ANSWER! 

Mrs. Burlington was really too ill and feverish 
to rise, and she lay in her darkened room suffering 
intensely. She followed in thought the incoherent 
lines she had scribbled to her husband, and tried 
to imagine what he would think of everything. 
She knew that he would be sorry for her— that 
his first thoughts about her would be kind and 
generous. She could see his kind eyes softening, 
and almost hear the murmur, " Poor thing ! " coming 
from his lips. It would explain so much to him. 
And in the future, as he had always known this 



Suspense and no Answer ! 207 

and had forgiven it, this terrible revelation would 
change her from all he had had to excuse and even 
forgive to a wife he should find devoted, affectionate, 
caring for what pleased him, and him only. Ah, 
what a future she would give him ; how she would 
try to make amends ! 

The hours moved on slowly, as they always do 
when fraught Avith important expectations, and Mrs. 
Burlington had time to hope and think, and think 
and hope again, before any sign was sent from her 
husband. Then it arrived from him to Mr. Kingson. 

" Thanks for letter ; home to-morrow early ; 
regret illness. " A telegram only ! 

Not another word ; no answer to the agonising 
appeal she had sent him ; not a message to her — 
nothing ! 

vShe read and re-read the flimsy pink paper as if 
to extract some forgotten word, and, with a feeling 
of despair, she lay down and closed her eyes. She 
felt as if all was over. Her q,xj had been unheeded, 



2o8 A Brillia^it Woman. 

and her husband must have known what it had cost 
her. Not till now had she realised what her offer 
had involved. She had proposed going away, and 
his silence, his cruel silence, seemed to say — "Go!" 
She had entreated for a word ; he sent her no 
word . . . Then, as the time rushed on, she felt 
as if she must acquiesce in his decision ! She must 
go and remove herself from the home she had 
valued so little — from the presence of the husband 
she had injured all innocently ; she must not 
continue to be a drawback to his career. Alas ! 
how she had already spoiled it for him ! 

She had some money, and she could not go out 
into the world penniless. Whatever happened, 
however, she would not keep his name openly ; 
she would see no shadow rested upon it. She 
would leave his house as befitted his wife, and leave 
no room for any scandal or surmises on the part 
of the servants. Afterwards the explanations might 
be given as he pleased. 



Suspense and no Aitswerf 209 

She drove to the station, calling at the bank and 
changing a large cheque ; and as Mr. Burlington 
was arriving on one platform, his wife, with a 
thick veil over her face, was gliding away to an 
unknown future from another. 

She did not give way to tears, being seldom 
relieved in that way. Her heart seemed to have 
stood still. She was conscious of a weight of great 
pain, and she felt ill and dizzy — hardly conscious, 
indeed, of where she was. She never moved; she 
saw figures coming in and getting out, and, at 
last, only one person — a man — was left sitting in 
an opposite comer. 

She lifted her veil once to get more air; she 
felt as if she was suffocating. She heard an exclama- 
tion, and raised her eyes in heavy surprise, turn- 
ing her head involuntarily towards her fellow-pas- 
senger. It was Horace Wyncote. No one could 
be more unw^elcome, for the simple reason that she 

was afraid of his betraying her whereabouts, and 
VOL. II. 14 



2IO 



A Brilliant Woman. 



she wanted to get away to hide from everyone 
who knew her. 

The probable conclusions that his having travelled 
with her might create, never for one moment 
occurred to her. 

He was terribly shocked by her pallor and by 
the set, rigid look in her features. He was a 
gentleman, and he did not know what to say to 
her, whether she would resent his intruding upon 
her thoughts, evidently very painftil thoughts, and, 
yet, offers of help he must give. 

" I trust you will allow me to be of some use 
to you as we are fellow travellers, unless — is Mr. 
Burlington in a smoking carriage ? " he said, in a 
very respectful way. 

" I am alone. No one can be of use." 

"You look so ill! " 

"I am ill. Yes; something you can do. Will 
you not say we met; that you saw me? I wish 
no one to know." 



Suspense and no Answer! 211 

She spoke in the suppressed, quiet tone of one 
suffering, and anxious not to betray suffering. 

" Do you wish this ? Your wishes naturally 
outweigh everything else — but you are ill." 

"I do wish it." 

Then it occurred to her that she might say a 
w^ord to him about Flora. 

Flora had behaved ill to her, but if she could 
say or do anything to make her happy she would 
do it. There was also another thing she would 
ask him somehow. Did he know her story? or 
her mother's? She was so confused that she did 
not see at the moment what this Mr. Wyncote 
had to do with that terrible story. All seemed 
bewilderment to her; and even speech seemed 
very difficult, and her words dropped slowly from 
her fevered lips. 

" Do you know that Flora Harrington has gone ? " 

" Yes; I know it." 

" Mr. Wyncote, it is difficult to say what I want 



212 A Brilliant Woman. 

to say .... but are you grieved? Is her 
going a matter of great regret to you ? " Mr. Wyn- 
cote looked surprised. 

Then he reddened, and said, in a low voice, 
" No one can well be regretted as long as the 
principal person is left. I am very sorry you are 
going, though I hope not for a very long time." 

She never took in his meaning, and he saw this, 
and was curiously hurt and annoyed. " May I ask 
you what has puzzled me a great deal ? " he said 
in a low, very earnest tone. 

"About Flora? Yes." 

" Partly about her. It has puzzled me very often 
to get kind messages, even flowers, from you, Mrs. 
Burlington, and yet when we meet . . . you keep 
me at arm's length, and grant me barely friendly, 
cold civility. You have sent me messages?" 

"Never." 

" Nor flowers — violets ? " 

"Never. Why should I?" and Mrs. Burlington's 



Suspense and no Answer! 213 

unfeigned astonishment spoke very forcibly to the 
young man, and mortified him much. 

She was too dazed and bewildered to follow the 
subject, and after a pause she said : " Everything 
appears strange and new to me, and I am not well. 
Does your father like your coming over to see us, 
or . . . does he object?" She fixed her glowing 
eyes on him, and he was obliged to be honest. 

" My father objects ; some old quarrel. I never 
knew what his reason is." 

" Mr. Wyncote, you did wrong to act against 
your father's wishes. My husband also objected to 
your coming. I did not understand. Now I know, 
and he is right. But I thought Flora and you ..." 

In the face of her absolute unconsciousness Mr. 
Wyncote felt ashamed of having ever dreamed that 
she took the faintest interest in him. He felt a 
little murderous against Flora, who had said so 
much, and who had probably been laughing in her 
sleeve the whole time. Even his vanity had never 



214 ^ Brilliant JVoman. 

enabled him to reconcile Mrs. Burlington's kind and 
constant presents of violets, etc., and still kinder 
messages with her absolute indifference when they 
met. Now all was explained. He must think for 
her, and act for the best. Their train never stopped 
till they got to London. When they arrived there 
he put her in a cab, and asked for directions. She 
shook her head, and told the man to drive on. Mr. 
Wyncote immediately chartered another cab, and 
followed her. 

For her own good he must know where she went. 
For her own sake he would then go straight home, 
and let her husband know where she was. He had 
promised nothing. 

Her cab drove on through all the dull and unin- 
viting streets lying beyond Euston-road, reached 
at last Kensington, and stopped at a small semi- 
detached villa near Campden Hill. Then, quickly 
taking the number, he retraced his steps to the 
station, and, getting a hurried meal at a restaurant, 



Suspense and no Answer ! 215 

took the night express home. When Mr. Burlington 
reached home his first question was for Maria and 
how she was. Mrs. Kingson was glad to answer the 
question in a reassuring manner. 

" Maria is better and has gone out driving. I 
offered to go with her, but she wished to be alone. " 

Mr. Burlington said one word to Mr. Kingson in 
answer to his question, put a little anxiously, " Well, 
you got my letter ? " 

" Yes ; we have been wrong throughout. She ought 
to have been told ! " 

" I have long thought that. However, it is a 
great thing over! " And poor Air. Kingson gave 
a deep sigh of relief 

" Mr. Burlington, who was in a fever of impa- 
tience to see his wife and reassure her, went to the 
library and paced up and down in great and natural 
impatience. 

Finally he rang. " Mrs. Burlington has not come 
in yet ? " 



2i6 A Brillia)it Woman. 

" No, sir." 

" All right ; let her know I have returned when 
she comes in; and bring tea here." 

"Yes, sir; for everyone, sir?" 
. "No; for two." 

Five o'clock came and tea; no Mrs. Burlington. 

Mr. Burlington hurriedly took some tea, and went 
out to the stables. The first thing he saw was the 
last washing being given to his wife's victoria, and 
her horses were already clothed and in their 
stalls. This was curious, as she had not come home. 

The head coachman came up to him. "Mrs. 
Burlington gave no orders about being met, sir. 
What shall I do? She caught the three o'clock train 
for London, and forgot to say when the carriage 
should meet her. As Mrs. Burlington took no 
luggage, some time this evening, sir, I suppose ?" 

" Yes, of course, " said Mr. BurUngton. 

"Very good, sir." 

His master did not think it yery good. She had 



Suspense and no Answer ! 217 

said nothing about going to London to Mrs. King- 
son, and she had taken no luggage. Of course she 
intended to be home that evening. 

When the carriage returned empty at seven o'clock, 
they got very uneasy. Mrs. Kingson was dread- 
fully uncomfortable. Mr. Kingson and Mr. Burlington 
went to meet a train due at nine, hoping to hear 
something, and to get any telegram quicker. Of 
course she was not there; and partly to hear whether 
she had appeared ill, or in what manner she 
had gone, Mr. Burlington said to the stationmaster: 
"Mrs. Burlington caught the three o'clock express?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"You are quite sure?" 

"I am quite sure, sir, as I put her into the car- 
riage myself I was standing at the door when she 
came up, as Mr. Wyncote was giving his directions 
about a box, and I myself put her into the train, into 
that carriage. The two men said no word to each 
other till they reached home. Then Mr. Burlington 



2i8 A Brilliant Woman, 

said hoarsely, "Do not think I draw wrong conclusions. 
I know it has been an accident, but it is unfortunate." 

Mr. Kingson gave him that sympathetic grip of 
the hand which is a man's way of expressing what he 
cannot say, and left him. Had he been wise he 
would not have unburdened himself to his wife. 
But he did do so, and repented it immediately after- 
wards. She burst into tears and sobs, and was 
apparently inconsolable. 

" History repeats itself, " she exclaimed of the girl 
whom she professed to love and admire so much. 
Mr. Kingson was furious with her. He could not 
understand her immediately putting the worse con- 
struction on what he felt must be an accidental 
misfortune. She was subdued by his indignation, 
but to justify herself heaped reason upon reason for 
being led to that conclusion. 

"There was the quarrel with Flora — who knows 
what that was about ? There may have been 
jealousy ! Poor dear Maria's bane was her love of 



Suspense and no Aftswer. 219 

admiration ; she never could bear any one else to be 
first. She always wished to be the bright parti- 
cular star. You know what I mean?" 

" I do not, " he answered, looking at her with 
such an expression of indignant reproach that she 
was a little cowed. " You flattered her incessantly, 
she was your sweetest and dearest. I thought you 
were sincere, and though, as you know, I often 
blamed you for such constant and outrageous flat- 
tery, I excused it because it seemed to be the 
outcome of a very real affection. At the first sign 
of an action we do not understand, you turn upon her, 
and class her with all that is vile!" 

" No, I don't. I only think that, being afraid of having 
forfeited her position here, and being led by admiration, 
she took the very first chance of running away." 

"And is not that being vile?" 

" There is no use in arguing with you — you will 
misunderstand my words. I only mean — " 

" For God's sake leave her alone!" he exclaimed ; 



220 A Brilliant Woman. 

" the child is dear to me, and I cannot hear you 
in cold blood argue away her character. Merci- 
fully, her husband shares my belief in her. He 
believes nothing against her ! " 

" It is all because of her beauty, " said Mrs. King- 
son, when her husband was well out of hearing. 
"People ask what does a straight nose do for one 
in this world? I say everything! Because Maria 
has a straight nose and a good skin, she may do 
everything she likes, and every man belonging to 
her will believe nothing against her! And what a 
foolish, silly girl to give up all this luxury and comfort ! 
I am sure when I think of these arm-chairs and the car- 
riages and everything else, I feel inclined to shake her. " 
It will be observed that Mrs, Kingson took life 
anything but seriously; and her indignation was 
directed towards that part of Maria's conduct which 
would probably affect herself and her future rela- 
tions with the owner of Burlington Manor. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



CHANGE OF PLACE. 



Mr. Burlington's actions were governed entirely 
by the first and greatest wish of his heart, that no 
one should guess — no one in the household should 
imagine — that his wife had taken a step without his 
knowledge and consent. He sent everyone to bed — 
went to his own room as if he also was going 
there — having arranged at the railway station for a 
carriage to be kept in readiness so that when his 
wife returned (he did not say " if " even to himself) 
she would not have to wait for a single moment. 
When the house was quiet he went down to the 



^222 A Brilliant Wo^nan. 

library, renewed the fire, threw open the shutters, 
drawing back the heavy velvet curtains, and spent 
the night in watching the particular turn of the road 
near the lodge-gates where the carriage lamps would 
first show their glimmer in the darkness. 

He reviewed the life he had lived since his mar- 
riage, and he acknowledged to himself that his wife 
had grow^n dearer to him than he had at one time 
ever thought possible. She might be provoking, 
wilful, different in many ways perhaps from the 
ideal he had had, but the individual charm of her 
manner, her brightness, and her absolute truthful- 
ness, made her more loveable than perhaps a more 
perfect character would ever have been. 

She considered him dull, and had often said so, 
half in fun half in earnest. Well, he was dull; his 
upbringing had been so shadowed, and the tone of 
everything around him had been sober. 

Into this dull sobriety she had brought an inex- 
plicable and delightful brilliancy, which he had so 



Change of Place. jj3 

much admired in her a.^ a girl, and then tried to 
neutralise as being* too unlike his ideas of a quiet 
home life. All her faults, all her follies, were for- 
gotten. Was it wonderful that as he had iio: shown 
appreciation she should feel pleased at appreciation 
elsewhere? Xotliing more than this, for he newr 
for one moment imagined her capable of wrong-. 

Poor child I What a frightful blow the truth must 
have been to her! Xow, when it was too late how 
he had blamed himself for not having taken Aunt 
Anne's advice. 

The night wore away, over the frosty dew long- 
shafts of pale light stole— the trees touched here 
and there with autumnal gold and crimson began 
to shake off the grey and black shades of night. 

Mr. Burlington watched the dawn, wondering 
what tlie coming day might bring him. He went 
early to his room, where he refreshed himself by 
the splashiiig and tubbing essential to one's happiness, 
and he went downstairs again. He made himself 



2 24 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

some tea, and just as the earliest housemaid, with 
sleepy eyes, was beginning to open shutters and 
windows to air the house, Mr. Burlington went out 
across the park. 

The deer were still lying quiet, and rose hurriedly 
to look at him as he passed. It was very early, 
but action was necessary to him, and movement. 

The morning was clear, cold, and sunshiny, and 
all the world was brightened by the brilliancy of 
the sun. Hope is nearer in the daylight, and the 
doubts and fears, the growing despondency of the 
last few hours, vanished with the night shadows. 
He was going to Aunt Anne, as yet in ignorance 
of everything, and he was just striking across the 
path leading directly to her house when he saw a 
figure hurrying to meet him. 

He stopped still, not at first recognising him, and 
then with infinite surprise saw that it was Horace 
Wyncote. 

No conventional greeting passed between them. 



Change of Place. 22^ 

Mr. Wyncote was anxious to speak and Mr. Burling- 
ton to hear; but there was a necessary pause to 
give the young man— who had been hurrying 
tremendously — time to recover breath." 

* I went to London yesterday, and I happened to 
be in the same carriage with Mrs. Burlington. Have 
you heard from her?" 

"No." 

" Ah ! I was afraid she would not be able to write. 
I am afraid from what I saw that she is very ill. 
Of course, I offered to be of any use to her. I 
need not say all that. But she would have no help. 
wShe seemed much annoyed that I was there; she 
was apparently suffering from some severe shock. 
. . . I got a cab for her and put her in. She 
would not give me the address, but made the man 
drive on." 

" Then, you do not know. . . " 

"Where she went to? I do. I thought her so 

ill that I followed, and I saw her get out at a house 
VOL. II. 15 



226 A Brilliant Woman. 

in Campden Hill. I took the number and drove 
quickly away. I was so much afraid of her being 
still more vexed with me if she saw I had followed 
her." He looked very anxiously at Mr. Burlington, 
half afraid of hearing that he was an officious fool 
for his pains. 

But Mr. Burlington put out his hand, and thanked 
him warmly. " My wife had bad news, and I was 
not at home to help her. I must go at once to her. 
You will do me a very real favour if you will come 
in to breakfast. Wait for me one moment, for I 
wish to speak to my aunt, and we will go home 
together." 

Horace Wyncote went into the garden, took out 
his favourite pipe, and smoked it to stay the pangs 
of hunger. For the emotions keep hunger off for 
a time, but only for a time, and a night journey 
and keen morning air had considerably sharpened 
his healthy appetite. 

Mr. Burlington was not very long absent. Ru- 



Change of Place. 22% 

mours had reached Aunt Anne too late at night 
to enable her to communicate with Cyril, but had 
prepared her for his visit. They took hurried counsel 
together, and then the two men brushed the heavy 
dew of the long grass in the park as they strode 
homewards. 

Breakfast was ordered to be hastened, a room 
given to Mr. Wyncqte, and in the meantime Mr. 
Burlington made his plans. He of course would 
go to London, and he would take some of his 
wife's things. Till he found her, no one should know 
more than that bad news had hurried her away, 
and that he was following her. Mrs. Kingson's 
countenance was a very real study when she came 
into the breakfast-room. She had heard that a 
strange gentleman was there, and her swift and 
active imagination had run from a family lawyer to 
a detective belonging to the Divorce Court. 

When she entered, her features composed to an 
expression of resigned grief and condolence, she 



228 A Brilliant Woman. 

beheld the man she had credited with being the 
hero of a frightful scandal in high life prosaically 
stirring his tea and being carefully attended to by 
the " injured " husband. Her start of surprise, her 
countenance, and her air, all spoke forcibly to Mr. 
Burlington; and he reflected with some bitterness 
on the part she had played from beginning to end. 
He spoke very little to her, however. As soon as 
breakfast was over, he asked Mr. Kingson to join 
them in the library, and then laid his plans before 
him. 

"May I ask one question?" said Horace Wyn- 
cote. " I want a single word of explanation. What 
connection is supposed to have existed between my 
uncle and Mrs. Kingson, the lady who was known 
professionally as 'Donella?' What part is he sup- 
posed to have played in her life?" 

"Is it possible," exclaimed Mr. Kingson, "that 
you are in ignorance of that story? My unhappy 
brother died, and dying told me the story when 



Change of Place. 2 2g 

he . . . She left her home, her husband, and her 
child, and fled with him." 

" I do not believe it, " said young Mr. Wyncote. 
*" Have you any proofs ? " 

" My brother had proofs ; he thought, at any rate, 
he had proofs. " 

" It seems a strange thing. My uncle became a 
missionary; he went abroad, and the lady . . . 

" The lady, Donella, what of her ? " and Mr. Bur- 
lington's voice was full of suppressed anger. The 
whole subject was so terribly painful to him. 

" She was in a convent not many years ago, 
and I do not think you know the rights of the 
story, " said the young man, in a very odd tone. 
" I wonder whether this is why . . . . " 

Cyril Burlington laid his hand on his shoulder. 
" Say whatever has to be said, but, for God's sake, 
speak out. Concealment and mystery lead to nothing 
but misery. " 

" I was going to say that I wondered why my 



230 A Brilliant Woman. 

father so strongly objected to my coming here. 
No one dares mention the name of Kingson before 
him. But I know nothing." 

** I have told you all I know, " said Mr. Kingson 
curtly — "all I believe to be the truth." 

** All this has nothing to do with our present 
plans, " said Mr. Burlington, impatiently. " I am going 
to shut up the house for the present, and I am going 
to London, till she comes home with me ; but I will 
write all details. I have ordered a carriage to take you 
to the station. Say what you feel right to your wife. " 

" Stay, " said Mr. Kingson. " What can I do ? 
Can I not help you in any way ? At any rate, you 
will write. I am not less anxious than you are. " 

" I will write, " said Cyril, and with a silent grip 
of the hand the three men parted. 

To Marsham Mr. Burlington gave the explanation 
he wished given to the other servants — "Mrs. Bur- 
lington had bad news yesterday. I am followiny* 
her. See that everything goes right till we return." 



Chartge of Place, 231 

•* Yes, sir. Mrs. Burlington's maid wished to know 
whether she was wanted to follow her also? " 

Here was another difficulty. 

" If I might venture, sir, she might have a holiday- 
to see her friends. It was spoken of; and a telegram 
would fetch her at short notice if Mrs. Burlington 
wished her to join her. " 

" I believe that would be the best thing, Marsham. 
Now it is time for me to be off." And, taking 
Mrs. Burlington's luggage with him, her husband 
travelled up to London, his thoughts occupied about 
the coming meeting, now that no secret lay between 
his wife and himself. 

The drive to Kensington seemed very long, but 
it ended disastrously for him. 

He went to the address given him by Horace 
Wyncote, and, with a beating heart, rang and 
knocked vigorously. 

The door was soon opened, and an elderly woman 
confronted him. 



232 A Brilliant JVoma7t. 

"I believe my wife arrived here yesterday," he 
said, going into the narrow entrance hall. 

" Was it your wife ? A lady came here. She 
expected to find Mrs. Brunton, a lady once gover- 
ness to her, I think. Mrs. Brunton died a little while 
ago, and we have the rooms. They are all full." 

" Then where did Mrs. Burlington go ? Did you 
direct her anywhere? " 

" We are strangers to this neighbourhood, and I 
could not recommend a stranger I knew nothing 
about anywhere, even if I had known the neigh- 
bourhood ; besides. ..." 

"Besides? What were you going to add?" 
Poor Cyril Burlington was almost beside himself 
with anxiety. 

" The lady looked so ill, she would not be a very 
profitable or pleasant inmate. One of the hospitals 
would have been better for her," said the old 
woman. 

Cyril turned, and went down the few steps to 



Change of Place. 233 

the cab. The old woman called after him in an 
injured tone : 

" As you're her husband —if you are her hus- 
band — she will of course write to you." 

" And if she is too ill to write? " he answered 
slowly. 

But the door was shut, and he stood quite irre- 
solute, not knowing what upon earth to do next. 

What was the reason of her having gone from 
him in this way? She had asked him nothing. 
She knew, she must know, that what was a painful 
revelation to her had been all along known to 
him — that he had nothing to learn — he had nothing 
to forgive her. 

He hunted the neighbourhood for a furnished 
house, and he telegraphed to Aunt Anne when he 
had found one. He was sure she was in the neigh- 
bourhood, since, if she was ill, she could not have 
gone far; and the thought of her ill, badly nursed, 
and badly looked after was terrible to him. 



234 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

He felt terribly helpless, and felt thankful when 
Mr. Kingson, full of hope and full of suggestions, 
came in answer to an appeal. His suggestions were 
practical. "If she is ill, and I have no doubt of 
that, a medical man must have been called in. We 
will take down the names and addresses, and visit 
them in turn. I that fails " 

" If that fails " asked the anxious husband. 

" We will get a detective, " answered Mr. Kingson. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

" I CANNOT SEE HIM ! " 

As most people are aware, there is no place like 
London for being lost sight of — no place where 
obliteration can be as complete. In Paris the close 
registration of every new resident, and the information 
about their previous domiciles, their occupations, 
and all else, make it comparatively easy to trace 
any individual. But in London every clue is much 
more difficult to follow; liberty of the subject pre- 
vents questionings (that may be convenient) on the 
part of any authorities, unless there is some strong 
reason for following such a course. 



236 A Brilliant Woman. 

It may be said at once that Mrs. Burlington had 
no idea of hiding. She had received a shock which 
had uprooted all her ideas, and the first impulse 
had been to write to her husband, whose generosity 
she knew so well. But the effect of his unexpected 
silence had been terrible to her. She took into her 
head that the revelation made to her gave him a 
chance for freedom from her follies, her mistakes, 
and the blunders she had made in all ignorance, 
and which had acted so disastrously upon his poli- 
tical aspirations. 

To go away somewhere, where he need not trouble 
to follow her ! She would give him his chance ! 
She could not remain to he ar Mrs. Kingson discuss 
the question of her birth, to be an object of pity to 
the servants, and an object of scorn to the various 
neighbours. Her brain was in a whirl ; she was in 
so great a fever that each sound was a pain to her ; 
and every rolling carriage seemed to be people 
conspiring and whispering things to her detriment. 



"/ cannot See Him!'' i^-j 

She wondered vaguely what she had done, and 
why her husband had not answered her appeal. 
When she found her old governess dead, she went 
to a small hotel, and got the woman of the house 
to rceommend rooms to her, being told to be sure 
to pay in advance. 

Worn out by sleep and excitement, she crept 
into bed vaguely asking herself w^here her maid 
was, and how she came to be where she was. The 
house was empty at that time, and the landlady 
was not overworked, and had time to look after 
her. Recognizing how ill her lodger was, she sent 
for the nearest doctor, who immediately got a 
professional nurse ; and before she had been forty-eight 
hours away from her home she was delirious and 
in all the terrible complications of brain fever. 

She was only by one street separated from her 
husband and Aunt Anne, but to all intents and 
purposes many weary miles might as well have 
kept them apart. 



238 A Brilliant Woman. 

In the whole painful state of suspense in which 
Cyril Burlington lived, one thought more terrible 
to him than any other stood out prominent. How 
had he failed so much towards his wife, as to let 
her think that to go away was right? Without a 
line to him, without an appeal, without one word ! 

Had he been so hard to her ? He had in the 
outset of their married life been amused by her 
transparent society ; he had been amazed himself 
to find how invariably he criticised her, and had 
blamed himself for this capability as being contrary 
to his sense of right. But for many months her 
open temper, her sunny bright ways, had endeared 
her to him. They had been happier each day. He 
had come to look forward to finding her at home 
expecting him, and to be disappointed if by chance 
she was not there. He had grown proud of her 
great beauty, and the admiration given ungrudgingly 
by every one. 

Even regarding Flora he had been lenient, though 



" / cafinot See Him / " 239 

he had always wondered what her attraction was 
in the eyes of Maria. Looking back through the 
halo of regret, he hardly remembered those moments 
of provocation or any of his wife's offences ; and 
he was very miserable. It takes a very small 
amount of virtue to be turned into a saint when 
there is much remorseful regret to help on the 
process ! Each day, assisted by his aunt, he went 
steadily through the list of medical men, and called 
upon each in turn. 

Every one spoken to upon the subject advised 
an advertisement. But Cyril shrank from a comer 
in the " agony column. " There seemed to him a 
painful publicity in such a step. All his friends 
would guess to whom the paragraph alluded, and 
the one thing he felt he could do for her at present 
was to keep the story quiet, so that when he had 
found his wife she could slip quietly into her place 
again without comment, as if she had never left it. 
It was, perhaps, an inspiration of Aunt Anne, but 



240 A Brilliant Woman. 

it was due to her, that poor Maria's whereabouts 
was found when hope had almost gone from her 
and from Cyril Burlington. Having interviewed 
doctors without end without any result, Aunt Anne 
was wandering down the wide road on which the 
villa they had taken was built, and which had 
small gardens and lime trees planted all along. 

At present the lime trees had to be taken on 
trust, but the gardens were pretty in their infini- 
tesimal way, and Aunt Anne, however occupied in 
other directions, was one of those women whose 
love of flowers was a passion. It was a grief to 
her that mice had several times destroyed some 
seeds which she had sown because the situation 
suited them, and that next spring they might do 
their good work in the world and cheer someone 
else. She went to the chemist to consult him about 
baffling the mice, when a tired-looking girl came 
hurriedly in with a prescription. " Mrs. Stobbs 
wants it at once, please. I'm to wait and bring it 



"^ I cannot See Him!'' 241 

back ; you won't be long ? " The master handed 
the prescription to his assistant, and said to the 
girl, "It will take about three minutes." 

He looked round again, apologizing to Aunt 
Anne for having left her. 

"Please do not mind; illness must always be the 
first consideration, " she said, in her gentle voice : 
" someone is very ill, I suppose ? " 

" Very ill, indeed, if I may judge from the num- 
ber of things they are trying, " said the master, 
hastily giving a look at his assistant's arrange- 
ments. 

" Is it a case where help is wanted ? " and the 
little lady took up her purse. 

" Oh, no, ma'am ! I believe not. She seems, by 

all accounts, to have been taken ill on her way 

somewhere, and was so ill she could not give her 

name. But Mrs. Stobbs said that she had plenty 

of money. " 

" She must be awfully rich, " said the girl, " she's 
VOL. II. 16 



242 A Brilliant Woman. 

the beautifuUest rings, and real lace on her things. 
Everything as fine as fine! " 

Aunt Anne's heart beat quickly; ill — a stranger, 
and richly clad. 

" What is the matter with her ? " she asked quickly. 

" It's her pore head that's bad ; she do talk the 
awfiallest nonsense. " 

" Brain fever, " said the chemist, shaking his head. 

" She sounds it sounds like a fi-iend I 

have been looking everywhere for, " said Aunt 
Anne, breathlessly. " Might I see her ? " 

" I'm sure, ma'am, Mrs. Stobbs will be glad ; 
she's been wonderin' and wonderin' her friends 
weren't askin' for her. I'll show you the way; it's 
just a step. " 

" It may not be the lady I am trying to find, " 
said Aunt Anne, " but everything sounds hopeful. " 

She was trembling with agitation, and could 
barely keep up with the girl, whose usually lag- 
gard steps went swiftly now, urged by the anxiety 



" / cannot See Him / " 243 

to astonish Mrs. Stobbs and to bring the lady's 
friends to her knowledge. 

Aunt Anne hoped and feared, and regretted she 
had not asked more distinctly upon what day this 
lady had arrived ill. 

But the girl was too far ahead for her to put 
any questions, and in another moment she was at 
the door of Mrs. Stobb's lodgings. Mrs. Stobbs 
was a broken-down, pale woman — one of the many 
women unable to cope with that rougher side the 
world turns to those who cannot stand its buifet- 
ings. She had been a lady's maid, and had at 
once recognised Maria's position in the world where 
she had lived in much comfort till her marriage. 

She was immensely relieved when she took Miss 
Burlington upstairs to find that all responsibility 
would now be removed from her shoulders. For 
Aunt Anne, when she saw the sick lady, had sunk 
down close to her bedside, and had cried with pure 
delight at having found her niece. 



244 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

To write to Mr. Burlington at once, and to see 
the doctor — to sit and watch the unconscious face 
and the restless hands — to utter prayers of thank- 
fulness 

Aunt Anne seemed to know now, by the strength 
of her thankfulness, how deep her anxiety had 
been; and, when Cyril came and the two stood 
together at the bedside of the brilliant girl whose 
brightness at one time had been almost an offence, 
a silent pressure of the hand was the only sign of 
sympathy she could command herself to give, with- 
out risking a complete breakdown. 

When Aunt Anne installed herself that day at 
Mrs. Stobb's, the good woman handed her a sealed 
packet. " The lady's money and letters, ma'am, " 
she said ; " I made the doctor see me seal every- 
thing, so that no reflections could be made upon 
me if — if things went wrong. " 

Aunt Anne gave her a kind answer, and handed 
the packet to Mr. Burlington. 



" / cannot See Him / " 245 

" Shall I leave it for her to open, or shall I see 
whether any letters throw light upon her departure? " 
he asked. 

Aunt Anne meditated, and, as usual, could not 
satisfactorily answer such a delicate question. 

But Cyril decided upon leaving the packet alone. 
The doctor was more hopeful to-day than he had 
yet been. " She has a splendid constitution, " he 
said, " I believe she w411 throw^ off this illness com- 
pletely ; but, unfortunately, it leaves some bad effects. " 

" Mrs. Burlington, as I believe you have been 
told, is my wife, and I am most anxious to know 
what we have to guard against. " 

Air, Burlington had show^n so much good feeling, 
so much affectionate anxiety about his wife, that 
the doctor readily answ^ered him. 

" A fever such as Airs. Burlington has had often 
leaves great irritability of the brain behind it, and 
often curious fancies. It she imagines she has done 
certain things, better let her think so ; her mind must 



246 A Brilliant Woman. 

be kept quiet and at rest. Don't argue with her; 
leave her quietly in possession of any theories, or 
even whims, she may have. Everything will come 
right by degrees. " 

Cyril heard this with some dismay. His wife's 
illness might not have been, had she not been kept 
in ignorance all these years, and then allowed to 
know everything when totally unprepared. But he 
could not explain his position or hers to the doctor, 
and he merely bent his head in token of acquies- 
cence. As consciousness came slowly to young 
Mrs. Burlington, it was found necessary to persuade 
her husband to keep out of her room. The sound 
of his voice, his footstep in the hall, threw his wife 
into a state of agitation. To Aunt Anne it was 
painful and bewildering, and she sought an explana- 
tion from her nephew in vain. 

" You had no difference of opinion, my dear ? ^ 
she asked, in a very hesitating way. 

" If you mean quarrel, certainly not. " 



* / cannot See Him / " 247 

" Do you think, my dear Cyril, you offended her 
in any way?" 

"Not that I am aware of. I can give no reason 
for this most unhappy state of things. She gets 
excited, you say, if you mention my name?" 

" ■Most dreadfully excited. She cries out, ' I 
cannot see him ! I cannot see him ! ' It is quite 
difficult to soothe her." 

" And, as we are not to agitate her, we must 
not ask for any reason ! " Poor Mr. Burlington was 
terribly worried by this new and unforeseen 
complication. 

The relief of his wife's recovery and the freedom 
from the tension of the last few days were immense. 
Now, he was longing to take her into his arms, 
to assure her of his love, to try to make her see 
that her mother's history made no difference to him, 
and that it had all been forgotten long ago. He 
had at one time thought her perpetual brightness 
a sort of heartlessness. He knew now what it had 



248 A Brilliant Woman. 

been to him. Was he to be punished for his 
dulness of comprehension by having it for ever 
withdrawn from him? 

Returning health changed nothing as regarded 
Mr. BurHngton's relations with his wife. She would 
not see him, and Aunt Anne was at one moment 
pitiful and the next full of indignant surprise. Mr. 
Burlington was in despair. How long was this 
to go on? 

At last he spoke to the doctor about it. " I 
must remind you of your warning to me about 
not contradicting my wife just now, of attending 
carefully to any whims she may have. I have no 
opportunity given me to do either of those things, 
as she refuses to see me." 

" Ah, " said the doctor, looking keenly at him, 
" Mrs. Burlington left home suddenly. You had no 
dispute, had you ? She strikes me as unusually 
sensitive, very high spirited; perhaps she misunder- 
stood something." 



"/ cannot See Him!'' 249 

"She left home suddenly. We had no dispute. 
I was absent on a visit which she herself pressed 
me to accept. When I returned she had gone." 

"Some strange notion she had taken into her 
head, I suppose. This illness has been coming on 
some little time, and it would make her very 
unreasonable; everything would show itself in its 
very worst light," said the doctor. 

"She was told — she discovered — some facts 
connected with her mother, and she seems to have 

taken them terribly to heart I was not there, 

and when I came home she had gone, leaving no 

word, no sign A friend happened to see her 

on her way, and followed her, thinking her ill. 
He fancied her all right when she got to her old 
governess, and he came straight to me to tell me 
about her. You know the rest." 

"I knew that Mrs. Burlington had had some 
mental shock; in her delirium she talked a good 
deal. I will myself see whether I can help you in 



250 A Brilliant Woman. 

any way. These are very troublesome cases, " added 
the kind doctor as he went out of the room. 

The professional inquiries satisfactorily answered, 
the doctor asked the nurse to go down to his 
carriage for a letter he wanted. He put his hand 
once more on Mrs. Burlington's wrist, and said, 
" You are getting on very well now, Mrs. Bur- 
lington; very well. Your husband must be very 
much pleased to see so marked an improvement." 

Her pulses bounded and spoke volumes to him. 
vShe was looking at him anxiously. " I have not 
seen him; I do not want to see him." 

"There is not the slightest occasion why you 
should if you prefer not to see him. I suppose he 
is not a savage husband, or his looks belie him. 
He looks kind enough." 

" He is kind — too kind — but " Her voice 

failed her. 

"Well, well, well, don't worry yourself ; get quite 
well in the meantime. I'll tell him not to come 



" / cannot See Htm / " 251 

near you just now. A message from you will do quite 
as well. What message shall I give him from you?" 

" Ask him, " she whispered feebly, " ask him why 
he never answered my letter!" 

Great tears filled her eyes, and rolled over her face. 

" I can quite well ask him that, " said the doctor 
quietly ; " but I will not give you his answer if it's 
a crying matter." 

Maria hastily wiped away her tears, and lay still. 

" Something one does not quite understand in this 
business, " soliloquised the doctor ; " perhaps some 
confession of a little account." And he went to 
Mr. Burlington at once. 

" Letter ? I have never received any letter ! " 

"Well, my dear sir, you will have to humour 
her. Let her think you did, and make any sort of 
excuse for not having answered it you can think of. 
You must not see her just yet; but these violent 
whirns pass off after a time. I am quite sure it 
will all come right. Good morning." 



252 A Brilliant Woman, 

All come right ! Cyril Burlington, who had never 
been face to face with a case of this kind in his 
life, hoped the doctor might be right, but the per- 
sistent refusal of his wife tried him sorely. He had 
done nothing to bring this on himself, except . . . 
Yes; if he had been open with her, if he had 
followed Aunt Anne's advice, all this worry 
might have been spared him. 

And so far as this went, he acknowledged that 
he had been to blame, and was suffering justly. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



A FIXED IDEA. 



Mr. Burlington was naturally anxious that his 
wife should be moved as soon as possible to the 
larger rooms and greater comforts of the house he 
had taken in the neigbourhood. He hoped much 
from the change, and he longed to make away 
with all the paraphernalia of the sick room, all the 
signs of invalidism which in his mind was associated 
with the determination of his wife not to see 
him. It may be supposed that Aunt Anne, finding 
herself appealed to as an authority on the one hand, 
and still more urgently entreated on the other was 



254 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

hopelessly bewildered. There are occasions when 
the possession of a conscience of any kind is incon- 
venient; and the possessor of a very tender con- 
cience is not always a person to be envied. 

Trying to keep clear of pitfalls in the shape of 
any prevarications, the poor lady was dumb at 
wrong moments. Then, finding that she was giving 
wrong impressions, she rushed into speech, and her 
speech was not always judicious. 

Cyril Burlington tried to bear his position in 
what he thought the only way. He made no moan 
to Aunt Anne or anyone else, but it fretted him 
almost beyond endurance. The separation from 
his wife showed him more than anything else could 
have done how much she had changed in his life. 
He was proud in his own way, but he was ready 
to sue to her for pardon, because he was so con- 
scious of having underrated her. 

He had thought her superficial, and he had 
judged her perhaps hardly, and now he was ready 



A Fixed Idea. 255 

to make amends to show her how much he missed 
her, and to prove to her that he did her justice. 
With these anxious thoughts her alienation was 
almost intolerable. Was it too late? He entirely 
misunderstood her at the present moment. Convinced 
that she had been a drawback to him, she decided 
to remain away. She had one great resolve in 
her heart, and there was but one person in the 
world she wanted to see — her uncle, Mr. Kingson. 
Invariably she had found him sympathetic; always 
had he been just; and now when she sickened at 
the thought of Mrs. Kingson's flatteries, and the 
unreal and false position she had helped to place 
her in, she turned with eagerness to the one human 
being who never flattered her, and whom she knew 
to be absolutely true. As soon as she was allowed 
to face agitating questions, her one prayer was to 
see Mr. Kingson, and perhaps nothing more tended 
to complete her husband's mortification than the 
messages he was cognisant of, which, instead of 



256 A Brilliant Woman. 

coming to him, were all a prayer for Mr. King- 
son's presence. 

Aunt Anne was at her wits' end. She felt, poor 
lady, as if life under its present aspects was too 
much for her, and, though her troubled mind did 
not betray itself in undue carelessness as to the 
crimped frills which she affected, or the proper sit- 
ting of her lavender shawl, she was all the same 
unsettled and unhappy, and accepted the position 
with the vague wonder of one whose life had run 
on comparatively smooth and easy lines up till 
now. 

Mr. Kingson was thankful to avail himself of the 
permission given to him to see his niece. He went, 
gladly ignorant of coming perplexity, full of pleasure 
only to be able to congratulate Maria upon renewed 
health, and with a latent curiosity as to what she 
had to say to him. Her first words, undeceived 
him. Her first words were a prayer to him to help 
her to undo the wrong she had unwittingly done 



A Fixed Idea. 257 

her husband, and to enable her to get away from 
him for good and all. 

" I suppose, " she said, " as he has never done 
anything wrong — and, of course, I never have — we 
cannot divorce each other. That can only be from 
some great wrong! " 

He was too much surprised to answer her readily. 
He was also much shocked. " You talk rather 
lightly of w^hat would be a terrible scandal," he 
said, looking at her in blank surprise. 

" I am not thinking of scandal. God knows I 
am not thinking lightly. I am thinking of him ! 
You must help me to think for him; what is best 
for him ! " she said, passionately. 

" Is he not the best judge ? " 

" No. He cannot see it otherA\dse than generously ; 
he was urged to marry me. It was very cruel! A 
great wrong has been done. I must undo that wrong. " 

" My dear child ! No man would marry against 

his washes. You are really talking nonsense. " 
VOL. II. 17 



258 A Brillia)it Woman. 

" I wish I was talking nonsense. Aunt Kingson 
spoke to him and urged him. And she says what 
is true. But for her it never would have been!" 

" What plans, then, have you, my dear ? Sup- 
posing that you and your husband live apart, what 
do you intend to do with your life ? " 

"Uncle! will you speak quite openly to me? 

Think how I am suffering because of concealment 

from me of things I should have known years ago ! " 

" My dear, I will tell you anything I can tell you. " 

" Well, then, tell me the history of my mother's 

life! You know it. What was she? W^ho was 

she? and where did she Uve; where did she die?" 

"My dear child, if you get so excited I shall 

tell you nothing. ** 

"Oh! I will be calm; I will keep quiet; only 
tell me! tell me everything; did you know her? 
Oh, tell me all without reserve ! " 

" I will tell you what I know. But do you 
remember nothing about her ? " 



A Fixed Idea. 259 

" I only remember being petted — being loved. 
I remember learning Our Father at her knee. 
A bad woman would not have taught prayers to 
her innocent child ! " 

Mr. Kingson laid his hand upon her shoulder, 
" My dear, I for one never believed .... I always 
thought that there might have been something in 
her story we none of us knew. When there is 
apparent disregard of fixed, established laws, the 
worst is always thought of a woman. A woman 
has to be very strong to override prejudices, and a 
woman without a definite position can never do so. 

" Three men loved your mother. Yes ! If I am 
to tell you the truth it must be the whole truth. I 
loved her deeply, passionately. So did my brother. 
So did Mr. Wyncote's brother. I candidly own 
that I never understood why the ver>' worst of the 
three attracted her, and it is quite impossible for 
me to tell you how lovely, how graceful, how fas- 
cinating she was. She was partly Irish, partly 



2 6o A Brilliant Woman. 

French ; but she had been mostly in France and in 
Paris, I believe. She was a dancer. Maria, she 
was in those days, and all the time I knew her, as 
good as possible. No breath of scandal could touch 
her. She was never alone, and she received no 
one. None of us knew where she lived. We three, 
much together, all adored her. I suppose others 
did, too. But I pressed her to marry me, and then 
she told me that my brother had already asked her, 
and had her promise. She did not look very happy 
when I tried to master my grief, and offered to be 
her brother. Wyncote was quite beside himself. 
He talked of treachery, and he behaved like a ma- 
niac. It was still worse when my brother ran away 
with her, and the marriage was over. I never shall 
forget the anxiety I went through. I was miser- 
able myself. I knew only too well that my brother 
was— well, he is dead, and yet I am obliged to say 
it—a scoundrel. He had no principles, no sense of 
honour, and he had an ungovernable temper. My 



A Fixed Idea. 261 

dear child! It is all pain. Let me hurry it over. 
There came a day when I heard that your mother 
had fled with Wyncote. There was a duel, and my 
brother was shot." Mr. Kingson, who had been 
speaking very quietly, suppressing all signs of agi- 
tation for the sake of the pale figure whose eyes 
were fixed upon him with such an intense and pa- 
thetic gaze, stopped. 

" And how do you know that it was true ? how 
did he — my father — know? Are you sure?" 

" I could only believe what my poor brother told 
me. It was true that she was seen travelling with 
Wyncote. Since then I have inquired no farther; 
and, my poor child, my earnest advice to you is to 
let the matter rest. Do not let one wrong mar 
two lives ! " 

" Do you think that possible ? Do you know me 
so little? " she said, in a very low voice, keeping 
herself under control for fear of his leaving her. 
She had much to ask, much to say! 



262 A Brilliant Woman. 

" But what remains to be done ? and what good 
can you do, raking up a painful story ? Let it rest, 
child ! I do entreat you. Let it rest ! " 

"It is not possible for me. Do you believe that 
my mother died then, or afterwards? How was it?" 

" We do not know. I believe she died. " 

^ You do not know ! " Mrs. Burlington half 
sprang up. "You have all left it so. You do not 
know; and I, while I have lived in such luxury 
and comfort, may have had a mother in want." 
This thought was horrible to her. She pressed her 
hands together with an inward prayer for patience. 

" No, Maria. Your mother was well cared for 
in one way as far as I could care for her. 
I knew my brother well, and I arranged that what 
could be settled on her was so settled. Child, 
your mother was inexpressibly dear to me, and my 
lovie and care for you may have been imperfect, 
but I would willingly hav^e guarded you — her child 
— from every sorrow, every trouble. " 



A Fixed Idea. 263 

" I am not thankless, " she murmured ; " I am 
more grateful to you than I can at this moment 
express. You must forgive me! It seems so diffi- 
cult to think that perhaps — perhaps — I have still a 
mother ! " 

" Oh, do not dwell upon that ! Do you think 
that all these years she would have made no sign ? 
If you knew how for months and years I tried to 
trace her, and then was confronted with one who 
said she had died! " 

" But you did not believe — you do not now quite 
believe this ? " 

" I believe either that it is true, or that she 
wished it to be believed. " 

" But, knowing her, you do not think she did 
anything . . . . " 

" Child, you are hurting yourself and half mad- 
dening me by these questions. I could in old days 
have staked all I had upon her goodness ; but what 
could I think ? It was true that Mr. Wyncote took 



264 A Brilliant Woman. 

her away, and that your father fought that duel and 
died . . . . " 

"And I refuse to believe that my mother did 
wrong ! " said Maria, in a low tone of passionate 
conviction. " I believe she lives .... I will clear 
her name ! Till then .... 

" Tell me one thing, " she said, catching hold of Mr. 
Kingson's hand and holding it in a firm and feverish 
clasp as he was moving to leave her, afraid of the 
effect of all this agitation and excitement upon her, 
and yet glad now that she knew everything — "tell 
me whether you enclosed my note to my husband ? ** 

" Of course I did. " 

" And he got yours. Strange, " she murmured. 
" I have only one more question to ask you, and 
then, dear, dear kind uncle, you need never speak 
of this again. Tell me about the time when .... 
Mr. Burlington wished to marry me. How was 
it? Was he very, very much in love with me, and 
so did not mind my story ? How was it ? " 



A Fixed Idea, 265 

Poor Mr. Kingson might have answered that he 
did not in the very least understand the first part 
of the engagement, which, indeed, had always been 
a surprise to him. It is a pity that when a woman 
like Mrs. Kingson makes everyone dance to her 
playing she does not take sufficient pains to conceal 
the machinery she has used when the object is 
attained. Viewing a successful plan when all is 
over is like seeing the empty stage with the glamour 
of light and music gone, and a yawning trapdoor 
with no fairies in sight — nothing but a square dark 
hole visible. Mr. Kingson was a man who could 
not put things prettily or well, and his wife was 
always intensely mortified by this trait in his cha- 
racter. He could speak the truth — what he believed 
to be the truth ; but he could not study his listeners 
and tell things " nicely. " " Well, my dear child, " 
he said, slowly, anxious to say what he knew, and 
not to make things better or worse, " when you 
fell in love with your excellent husband I was sur- 



2 66 A Brillia7it Woman. 

prised, because you were — well, such a brilliant 
personage, and he was older a good deal, and 
graver, and .... well, not as brilliant. " 

" You were surprised I fell in love. I suppose 
Mr. Burlington was told I was in love with him ? " 

" I believe he was allowed to know this. He is, 
as you know, a man who has no vanity ; and Mrs. 
Kingson said he was quite touched, and, of course, 
awfully pleased and all that, very naturally." 

" And he knew all about me ? " the poor girl said, 
in a low voice — "about my mother?" 

" Not at first, my dearest child. Mrs. Kingson, 
indeed, thought me very stupid for telling him, and 
to please her I only told him two or three days . . . 
I forget when, but not very long before the wedding. 
He was very much upset, but very kind, and said 
it would make no difference. Then we talked about 
telling you, and he said that, as you knew nothing, 
to leave it so; so few people knew the story. So, 
you see, he thought as Mrs. Kingson did. His aunt 



A Fixed Idea. 267 

agreed with me. I thought you should know all 
about it; that it was not just to you, and it was 
putting you in a false position." 

"You were right. Oh! it was cruel, very cruel; 
but I know he meant it kindly," she added, gently. 

She was looking very white; and Mr. Kingson 
said "Good-bye," and insisted on going away. As 
he bent over her to kiss her, she put her arms round 
him and kissed him as she had never done before. 

" Don't worry over it all, " he said, kindly. " Try 
to rest, my dear child." 

He creaked out of the room (his boots always 
seemed to creak). The sound made Maria almost 
hysterical. How often she had laughed at him and 
privately despised him for clinging to a cheap shoe- 
maker whose imperfectly laid soles made music 
wherever he went; and now could she ever dare 
to laugh again at any of his peculiarities? The 
sound of his boots would always be to her, as all 
else connected with him, sacred. Then, though it 



268 A Brilliant Woman. 

was dusk, she put her hands over her face so that 
the vivid, shamed bhish might be hid even from 
that fading light. This was how Mrs. Kingson had 
managed! She told herself, and she had once said 
it to her husband, that some one had " lied" to her. 
But she had never, never guessed the depth of her 
humiliation or the extent of that lie. 

So her husband had been told that she was in 
love with him. She had been thrown at him. He 
had been tricked in every way. Her story was 
withheld till so near the marriage that it had to 
go on. 

And he had never by act or deed shown what 
he must have thought of it all. He knew she was 
ignorant, but how had she acted? 

Then another thought sent burning tears down 
her face. " I am glad my child died, " she said in 
a whisper. " My mind is made up. Till my mother 
is clear before the world I will not go back to him. 
He shall be free — as free as I can make him. (to 



A Fixed Idea. 269 

back to see scorn in the faces of some of those 
around me, compassion in others ; to feel that I took 
a stand I had no right to ; and that they are entitled 
to put their feet upon my neck. Never! Never! 
It would kill me ! " 

Of the home broken up, of the unhappiness for 
her husband, to whom she owed so much, she did 
not think. She was blind to everything but the 
agony of her own humiliation. And yet she loved 
and honoured her husband, as it seemed to her she 
had never yet done. But, because he had been 
tricked, and she had been deceived, was, she con- 
sidered, no reason why she should, with her eyes 
open, avail herself of his generosity. 

Her mother cleared before the world, if she was 
living, honoured if she was dead, she could then 
avow her love for her husband, and her return 
would bring no shadow upon his home. 

END OF VOL. II.